Embryos that are less than 0.001% human – and the rest pig – have been made and analysed by scientists. It is the first proof chimeras…can be made by combining material from humans and animals.
The process appears very inefficient – of the 2,075 embryos implanted only 186 continued to develop up to the 28-day stage.
But crucially there were signs that human cells were functioning – albeit as a tiny fraction of the total tissue – as part of a human-pig chimera.
[I]n the meantime the Salk researchers argue that making chimeras with more human tissue could be useful for:
- screening drugs before human trials
- studying the onset of human diseases
- understanding the earliest stages of human embryo development.
- explaining differences between organs in different species
Although in the long term, cows look likely to be a better host for human organs [than pigs] as both cow and human pregnancies last about nine months.
“When the public hears the world chimera it is always associated with Greek mythology, there is always this associated fear. But angels are chimeras, it can be a positive image and hopefully help with a worldwide shortage of organs, not create a monster,” [said Dr. Jun Wu, part of the research team].
[The study can be found here.]
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