Freaky Friday: Scientists create human-pig embryos

Through modern day science, countless lives have been saved. However, it seems there are scientists who have never read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or the Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells.

In January 2017, an international team of scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, made a rather controversial announcement. They were able to create a human-pig hybrid. I kid you not. It might not sound kosher, but their human-pig chimera (the scientific name for a creature that has cells from two different species) was allowed to grow to four weeks old, before being terminated.

Anyone who knows their Greek mythology will tell you that messing with a chimera is never a good thing. But hey, I could just be a tad paranoid about a humanoid pig trying to conquer the earth.

Despite my concern, this scientific breakthrough is considered a milestone. It is the first time scientists have been able to combine human cells with another species of mammal. But why would anyone want to do this? Surely scientists aren’t that dumb and can’t see the potential danger?

Apparently, this experiment is being done with the best intentions. Which is to address the problem of a lack of donor organs for transplant operations. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who was involved in the project, claims the goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs.

How did they manage to pull off this rather creepy experiment?

Apparently, the human-pig embryos were created using CRISPR genome editing tools. The researchers then injected human stem cells into very young pig embryos in their lab. Over 2000 of the hybrid embryos were then transferred into female pigs.

Over 150 of these survived, growing in the sows before being removed from the pigs and being terminated.

If this technology is improved, it could change the medical world forever. People waiting for organs can become a thing of the past. But, what about the ethical issues pertaining to this strange experiment? What about the chimera’s life? Do you think this form of experimentation should be allowed? Do you think it should be stopped? Or do you think it should be funded to save lives?

Until next week, have yourself a Freaky Friday!!!

 

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