Scientists trying to grow human organs inside pigs in an attempt to tackle a shortage of donors have successfully created part-human, part-pig embryos, it has been reported.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, combined human stem cells and pig DNA and allowed the embryos to mature for 28 days, before terminating the experiment and analysing the tissue.
They believe the animals, which if they had been carried to term would have developed a human internal organ, but would have looked and behaved like any other pig. The goal is that in the future, similar animals could potentially act as a ready source of organs for life-saving transplants.
To create the “chimeric” embryos, the scientists used a gene-editing technique known as Crispr to knock out a section of the pig’s DNA necessary for the embryo to develop a pancreas.
There has been opposition from authorities in the past. In September last year, the US National Institutes of Health said it would not back research into “chimeras” until it knew more about the implications.
It cited fears that the presence of human cells could affect the animal’s brain and behaviour, potentially making it more human. The reproductive biologist leading the research sought to calm those fears, saying there was a “very low potential for a human brain to grow”.