The world’s first monkey-pig hybrids were born this week although both died within days. They were found to have DNA from macaque monkeys in their heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin. Ten piglets were born – two were chimeras.
According to New Scientist, Chinese scientists say they are doing this as part of the research into the growth of human organs. More than 4,000 embryos were implanted into a female pig. The scientists modified monkey cells to produce a fluorescent protein which allowed the researchers to track the cells. The modified cells were then injected into the pig embryos five days after being fertilized.
The two piglets born looked normal, and it is not known why they died. The researchers suspect it had to do with the IVF process which doesn’t work as well in pigs as it does in humans and other animals.
Scientists claim they will continue to experiment in order to produce healthy animals with higher concentrations of monkey DNA and to eventually reproduce an animal with an organ containing only monkey DNA – bringing them closer to producing tissue-specific cells for the production of eventual human transplant organs.
A similar experiment had been done California in 2017 at the Salk Institute using pig-human chimeras with 0ne in 10,000 cells being human. The embryos were destroyed within a month.
The ultimate goal is to grow human organs inside of live animals to help resolve the organ transplantation crisis. Reactions to the experiments have been mixed, however most people think this is a “step too far.”
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