Scientists at the University of California successfully created a chimera embryo, part pig, part human, to attempt a pig to human transplant.
As the demand for organ transplants increases, scientists are developing a way to create human organs grown in pigs. Essentially, undertaking a pig organ transplant to a human, they need to create a chimera.
Unlike the chimera’s in mythology, such as the fire-breathing part lion, part snake, part goat creature described by Homer or the characters in popular children’s TV shows such as “Yu-Gi-Oh,” there are no supernatural powers involved.
What scientists hope to solve through the creation of a chimera?
Mostly – the problems with the shortage of organ implant donors, by breeding pigs with human organs that they can then harvest to save human lives.
Of course, this evokes many ethical dilemmas. For example, the US National Institutes of Health refused to endorse this research as there are still too many unknowns. Meanwhile, the head of research into this chimera project, Reproductive biologist Professor Pablo Ross stresses that there is an extremely small possibility that the pig would develop the brain cells of a human. Nevertheless, this risk is too much for the Institute.
Dangers of a Pig Human Transplant
There is also a concern that pig viruses could be transferred post-transplant to patients. Similarly, there could develop serious complications. To enumerate, the human recipient would automatically reject the organs that contain blood vessels from the pig.
However, Harvard researchers believe that via gene-editing they could deactivate around 60 known retrovirus genes from the pig. But still, the blood vessel cells issue remains a concern.
There are also concerns from animal rights activists. Peter Stevenson from the organization “Compassion in World Farming” is worried that this will just be another way for animals to suffer at the hands of humans and that instead there should be better campaigns to encourage people to donate organs. He believes that it is not yet the last resort, and when it is, only then should it be explored.
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