Growing Human Organs Inside Pigs and Sheep

Human-animal chimeras

#Science

Fri, Jan 15th, 2016 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

By combining stem-cell biology with gene-editing techniques, researches prevent the embryos of pigs or sheep to produce a particular organ. Human stem cells are then put in place, with the idea that it should produce the missing organ. When the organ reaches maturation, it can be harvasted and transplated into a human. The procedure is not without controversy, especially concering animals gaining self-awareness as a result.

The worry is that the animals might turn out to be a little too human for comfort, say ending up with human reproductive cells, patches of people hair, or just higher intelligence. “We are not near the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast,” NIH ethicist David Resnik said during the agency’s November meeting. “The specter of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming ‘I want to get out’ would be very troubling to people.”

The chance of an animal gaining human consciousness is probably slim; their brains are just too different, and much smaller. Even so, as a precaution, researchers working with farm-animal chimeras haven’t yet permitted any to be born, but instead are collecting fetuses in order to gather preliminary information about how great the contribution of human cells is to the animals’ bodies.

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