It sounds like a horror movie, but scientists have found a way to combine human and pig cells together in one animal.
Creepy; but remarkably helpful for the human race.
The breakthrough was celebrated by the Salk Institute in San Diego, California. Scientists here have managed to create the first successful human-animal hybrids, according to National Geographic.
The good (or bad depending on your ethical views) work has been ongoing for the past few years with success only coming to light recently. The resulting human-animal hybrids were the first ‘chimeras’ to survive a good chunk of the gestation period as embryos.
Chimeras are a long-recognised, mostly mythical, phenomenon where two species’ genes co-exist within the same creature. There has been evidence of chimeras in reality, but never a human-animal chimera created through man-made genetic design.
An example of a chimera suggested by one of the scientists involved is an angel. Biblically, they’re a bird-human hybrid that protects humanity. Fighting back against ethical concerns, Jun Wu of Salk Institute says that these human-pig hybrids could save lives by creating much-needed donor organs.
The human-pig hybrids start out as early-stage embryos called blastocysts. The pig’s blastocysts are modified to not grow certain organs; they’re then injected with human cells at just the right developmental stage so that the human cells will grow the right organ.
The scientists’ process began with mice and rats, and now they’ve progressed to humans and pigs, since pigs have very similar biological make-ups to us.
The scientists say that there’s still a very long, hard road ahead of them before the hybrids will be successful enough to survive full gestation in the womb; and even then, the organs can be rejected by humans because of the level of pig DNA within.
As time goes on, the Salk Institute hopes to increase the number of human cells that will be present in the hybrid organ so that it can be easily accepted into humans’ bodies.
What do you think? Is it ethical to combine a human’s DNA with a humble pig’s? Is it worth it for the lives it may save through organ transplants, or is it morally wrong to you? Let us know your thoughts.