We’ve created human-pig chimeras — but we haven’t weighed the ethics


 I’m worried about a new paper in the journal Cell that details the creation of a human-pig chimera.

As a neuroscientist, I appreciate groundbreaking research at a purely scientific level and understand the hard work that goes into advances like this. But I also believe that science should be guided by ethics, and this work seems to be jumping ahead of ethical considerations.

In the new work, led by investigators at the Salk Institute, researchers injected days-old pig embryos with human pluripotent stem cells. By the time the fetal pigs were aborted, they had begun to grow partly human organs.

While this represents only a very preliminary step toward the development of human/nonhuman chimeras — the name comes from a mythical monster with the body and head of a lion plus the head and udders of a goat and a serpent for a tail — the goal of this and similar research is to generate pigs and cows with human organs.

Since cows and pigs are similar in size to humans, the human organs they grow could be harvested and transplanted into people. The key organs targeted in this research are the heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, lungs, and brains. These organs could also be used for research on human disease, development, and evolution. Pigs and cows would become, essentially, living containers for an unlimited supply of human organs. (Click to Article)

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