In what might be the most disturbing news you’ll hear all week, scientists have successfully created a human-pig hybrid as part of a milestone study that aims to create the prospect of growing human organs inside of an animal for transplants.
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Not only is this the first time that a human-pig hybrid has been created, but it’s also the first time that embryos containing two large and related species have been produced.
The creation of the ‘chimera’, as it’s called, has been a huge step towards creating human hearts, livers and kidneys from nothing. The embryos were generated at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. Here’s what Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the work, had to say:
The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that. This is an important first step.
The work outlines how human stem cells were injected into early-stage pig embryos, which resulted in more than 2,000 hybrids that were transferred to surrogate sows. More than 150 of the embryos developed into chimeras which were mostly pig, but were also a tiny bit human. Weird. These were allowed to develop for 28 days before they were removed:
This is long enough for us to try to understand how the human and pig cells mix together early on without raising ethical concerns about mature chimeric animals.
This knowledge will pave the way for incubating human organs that are genetically matched to a patient.
That’s all very well and good, but obviously it raises some pretty serious ethical questions as well. Professor Daniel Garry, a cardiologist and head of a different chimera project at the University of Minnesota, said that it was a worry whether the hybrid would look more human or pig and also what would happen if a chimera had a human thought and whether it was possible for human cells to cannibalise the pig embryo, which would result in mostly-human, slightly-pig offspring. The thought of any of these issues becoming reality is completely disturbing and I hope that these guys rule out any such complications before pursuing the next stage of research.
The last thing this world needs is a bunch of half-human, half-pig creatures taking over. All they’d need to do is splice this with the DNA of a bear and then the South Park prophecy of ManBearPig would come true. It’s a crazy world we live in.
To see what this human/pig hybrid will probably look like when it’s fully developed, click HERE.