Scientists in Japan Claim Breakthroughs in Growing Human Organs in Animals
by Steven Ertelt
May 5, 2009
Tokyo, Japan (LifeNews.com) — Scientists in Japan are claming new breakthroughs in growing human organs in animals, a process that gives credence to the notion that the scary Brave New World has arrived. The researchers are trying to grow human organs in animals as a way to combat the shortage of organs for transplants.
The scientists haven’t actually grown human organs yet in animals, but their "success" in growing monkey organs in sheep using stem cells is but a step on the way.
Within a decade, they hope to move from locating a spare monkey pancreas in the wool of a sheep, to producing human organs.
The pancreas in this case was generated from monkey stem cells and researcher Yutaka Hanazono tells the London Times he believes sheep could be turned into "walking organ banks for human livers, hearts, pancreases and skin."
"We have made some very big advances here. There has historically been work on the potential of sheep as producers of human blood, but we are only slowly coming closer to the point where we can harvest sheep for human organs," Professor Hanazono told the newspaper.
"We have shown that in vivo (in a living animal) creation of organs is more efficient than making them in vitro (in a test tube)," he added.
Wesley J. Smith, a leading American bioethicist, is monitoring the news.
He says Hanazono’s research "would not be xenotransplantation in the usual sense of the term, since the procured organ would not be the sheep’s own, but, as I understand it, would be a construct made from human stem cells."
"So, if this works–always a big if in early research–a patient’s adult stem cells could be used to grow a new organ in a sheep, which would then be transplanted back to the human when the time was right," Smith says.
He says animal rights advocates may squawk about the process.
"So, to those animal rights types: Is it wrong to sacrifice sheep in order to literally save people?" Smith says.
Smith said the process Hanazono used apparently involves adult and not embryonic stem cells — the London Times articles doesn’t say one way or the other.
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