This is one of the most controversial topics of the year and it’s also highly debated within the scientific community as well. But science has achieved yet another milestone by successfully creating the first human-pig hybrid.
The Salk Institute has devoted to research and create this hybrid mainly with the purpose of helping people with dysfunctional organs. Annually, the number of organ donors drops more and more. Every ten minutes, a new person is added to the National Organ Donor Waiting list for transplants, and each day 22 people die on that list because they didn’t get the chance of finding an organ donor. Lead scientist Jun Wu is devoted to tackle this issue by trying to grow human organs in pigs. The hybrid species will only be used for the purpose of organ transplants.
The only issue that the team is going through now is directing the cells to grow in correct tissues and organs in a foreign environment (non-human).
The research team developed a chimera, which is an organism that contains cells from 2 different species. These types of experiments are prohibited from governmental funding, which made the team’s research depend on private funding.
After developing the hybrid embryo, the next step is to place it into adult pig bodies and let the embryo grow for a few weeks. Pigs were specifically chosen because their organs are very similar to human ones, and thus the chances of organ rejection are smaller.
Even though this study has been going on for four years already, there’s plenty of more time needed to successfully develop human organs. Through much trial and error, the results that have been made are not only significant, they’re also a new stepping stone in genetic engineering.
At the moment, the human cells inside the hybrid embryo seem to slow its growth down. Scientists are working on figuring out how many human cells can the hybrid embryo tolerate.
Stem cell expert, Ke Chung, explains that the next big step is focusing on increasing the number of human cells by developing new methods. He goes on to say that even if the process of building a complete human organ ready for transplant may take years, the real-time insight that they’re getting through each step proves to be of the same value.
Even at this early stage, he calls this a scientific breakthrough and very intriguing.
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Source: National Geographic