January 26, 2017
In experiments aimed at finding ways to grow new human organs inside animals, researchers recently succeeded in making embryos that contained both pig and human and pig cells.
These so-called human-pig chimeras (which contained only a small number of human cells) were allowed to develop for several weeks in female pigs before the pregnancies were terminated, according to a new study.
“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” study researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, said in a statement. “This is an important first step.”
Experiments using human-animal chimeras are controversial, but last summer, the U.S. government said it planned to lift a ban on the use of federal funding for such research. Supporters of the research have also said that human-animal chimeras could lead to better ways of studying early human development and human diseases, as well improved methods for testing new drugs against certain conditions. [3 Human Chimeras That Already Exist]