Every day, hundreds of new people are added to the national list in need of an organ. Many die while waiting for these organs. Scientists ponder certain questions every day. What if the injured and ill no longer need to wait? What if instead of relying on a donor, you could grow the needed organ in the body of another animal?
A group of researchers from the Salk Institute have laid the groundwork to find solutions for such a project.
It is tricky business, these types of projects. Mainly because they have been deemed ineligible for public funding in the United States by the National Institute of Health. Also, a lot of critics think this line of work is just too creepy to fund. So, the Salk research team has had to do their research completely with the support of private donors.
As a result of this research, they may have created the first chimera—or animal-human hybrid.
They did this by introducing one of the animal’s cells into the other’s embryo—this allowed them to grow and fuse together.
But it was a long, complicated process.
The first attempt was with mice and rats. After lots of trial and error, they found this fusion of two species possible. This, then, was escalated to rats and pigs. No amount of trial and error work would create a living chimera, however. The genotypes of the two species contrasted too greatly.
What was a much clearer match, they had learned, was pigs and… humans.
After much time, energy, and money, the Salk Institute researchers successfully developed the growth of an embryo made by the fusion of pig and animal cells.
It was noted, however, that the pig traces are too strong in the embryo. At this stage, an organ transplant from this chimera to a human body would be rejected quickly. It could take years for this to not be the case.
In the meantime, scientists are using Salk’s methodologies to study embryo development and disease control. The doors that have been opened, however (successfully integrating positive feral traits and skills into man?), seem endless.
Featured image via YouTube.