Researchers in the U.S. are tinkering with a disturbing new experiment that mixes human and pig cells to produce a hybrid embryo, The Express reports.
Scientists at the University of California, Davis are trying to use pigs as “biological incubators” to grow human organs, according to the report. Walter Low, a professor at the University of Minnesota, said scientists hope to develop a method to grow various organs for transplant, including pancreases, hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs and corneas.
Low explained that cells would be taken from the patient needing an organ and used to grow “an exact genetic copy” of that organ in a pig embryo. This method would reduce the chance of a patient’s body rejecting the organ transplant, he said.
Sometimes referred to as chimeras, animal-human hybrids have been the subject of experiments in the past. The University of Rochester implanted newborn mice with nascent human glial cells to test brain activity involved with learning and memory, LifeNews reported. The University of Wisconsin also has conducted human-animal studies.
There are serious concerns about the ethical implications of such research. Here is more from the report:
The research is so controversial that last year, the main US medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health, imposed a moratorium on funding such experiments.
Its main concern is that the human cells might migrate to the developing pig’s brain and make it, in some way, more human.
Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist who is leading the research, said this is unlikely but is a key reason why the research is proceeding with such caution.
He said: “We think there is very low potential for a human brain to grow, but this is something we will be investigating.”
Mr Ross, whose team is from University of California, Davis, says the hybrids should look and behave like normal pigs except that one organ will be composed of human cells.
But, amid concerns that the human-pig chimeric embryos could develop too much like us, the inch-long embryoes are only being allowed to develop inside the sows for 28 days before the pregnancies are terminated and the tissue removed for analysis.
… Mr Ross said: “Our hope is that this pig embryo will develop normally but the pancreas will be made almost exclusively out of human cells and could be compatible with a patient for transplantation.”
In 2009, pro-abortion President Barack Obama issued an executive order allowing funding on life-destroying embryonic stem cell research, including for human-animal hybrid embryos, LifeNews reported. This rescinded President George Bush’s policy prohibiting taxpayer-funding of the life-destroying practices.