Human-pig hybrid embryos have been created by boffins who say the breakthrough could transform organ donation. The embryos were grown inside a female pig, and contained only tiny amounts of human tissue.
However, the hope is that the method may one day mean that whole organs can be grown in a pig, made up of human cells, which can then be transplanted into people, to deal with the current shortage of organs available for transplant.
The hybrid embryo was created by injecting human stem cells into pig embryos before implanting them into the female pig. The human cells then grew so that they actually became part of the tissue. However, the embryos were not given the chance to form into piglets, as they were then taken out before they reached 28 days.
However, while the medical breakthrough is a step forward, who human cell organs would need to be grown if they were to be used for transplants in people. Scientists hope that, in the future, that whole organs will be able to be grown in a pig, made up of human cells. This would, in theory, mean that the organs would not be rejected by a person’s immune system.
Currently, around three people die every day in the UK, and 12 people die each day in America, because there are not enough organs available for transplant. However, the research does raise ethical questions. If, for example, too much human DNA was injected into a pig embryo, what would that lead to?
Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, the secular watchdog group, said that he found the science experiments deeply disturbing. He said that in popular mythology, human-animal chimeras are portrayed as monsters, and that was for good reason. He also questioned why public opinion was not sought before the experiments were carried out.