Scientists have developed the first successful human-pig hybrid embryo. The embryo may lay the foundation for faster organ transplant and many other revolutionary procedures in the future. Details of the experiment were released Thursday.
How Was ‘Chimera’ Achieved
To conduct the experiment, the scientists infused a pig’s embryo with human stem cells and then implanted it inside a sow’s uterus. It was closely observed for a month. After that, it was seen that the stem cells showed signs of transforming into precursors of human organs.
The embryo has been dubbed “chimera” (on the mythical half lion, half goat and half snake creature). Even though it is the first of its kind to actually show signs of success, it is by no means an efficient sample. A lot of work has to be put into it before it remotely develops into an animal functioning with human organs, reported The Washington Post.
2017 has kicked off with groundbreaking researches in the field of medical science. Another group of scientists published their findings a day ago disclosing that they had successfully grown a mouse pancreas inside a rat’s embryo, reported National Geographic. When tissue from that organ was transplanted into diabetic mice, the insulin from the tissue was able to diminish the severity of the illness.
Ethical Concerns Over Chimera
The discovery is still far from being used for human organ transplant. However, scientific research is surely headed in the right direction. Developing chimera embryos in farm animals could mean critical patients no longer have to wait years for organ donors.
However, there have been both medical as well as spiritual concerns over the human-animal genetic fusion. People have criticized the experiment on ethical grounds. This is because human stem cells can also develop into a human brain or reproductive organ inside a farm animal. On religious grounds, people have questioned whether combining the genes of humans and animals violates the sacred line.
Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethicist at the University of Montreal’s School of Public Health, does not see it that way. According to him, it’s worth taking the risk if it means paving a future that can save human lives. “The more you can show that it stands to produce something that will actually save lives … the more we can demonstrate that the benefit is real, tangible and probable — overall it shifts the scale of risk-benefit assessment, potentially in favor of pursuing research and away from those concerns that are more philosophical and conceptual,” he said.