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Chinese Scientists Move Closer To Growing Human Organs In Animals


By Darwin Malicdem

December 9, 2019

Reprinted from: Medical Daily



Scientists have been trying to find a way to address the organ shortage in many countries. One potential way is growing important organs inside animals for future transplant to human patients.

The effort recently moved forward after a team from China successfully brought to life some piglets that received monkey stem cells while in the womb. The pig-monkey chimeras were born in the Chinese lab Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology, IFLScience reported.

Scientists said despite carrying foreign DNA, the piglets appeared normal. The team took the embryonic stem cells from crab-eating macaques.

Prior to the experiment, scientists genetically modified the cells from monkeys to add a fluorescent protein called GFP. The protein enabled them to monitor the activities of the foreign cells when injected into pig embryos.

Scientists injected more than 4,000 embryos to the host pig. However, only two out of the 10 altered piglets came out as chimeras.

In the altered piglets, monkey cells appeared spread in tissues across vital organs, such as the heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin. The findings were published in the journal Protein and Cell.

“We believe this work will facilitate future developments in xenogeneic organogenesis, bringing us one step closer to producing tissue-specific functional cells and organs in a large animal model through interspecies blastocyst complementation,” the authors of the report said.

Despite the progress in creating pig-monkey chimeras, all piglets died within a week after birth in the lab. Scientists have yet to determine the real cause of their death but they said it could be due to problems with in vitro fertilization (IVF) process.

The team also noted there were no signs that chimerism did not contribute to the problem since both normal animals and chimeras died.

Human Organs In Pigs 

There have been numerous experiments that involved creating chimeras to study how to grow human organs in animals. Some tests with mice were successful in producing chimeric organisms.

However, scientists have been facing challenges in testing the method with humans due to biological and ethical reasons. But human stem cells are known for being able to self-renew and regenerate, which allow them to survive  in other mammals for organ development.

The team that led the pig-monkey chimeras experiment plans to continue growing healthy animals with more monkey cells. They hope the findings would guide future experiments in pigs that would contain organs composed of foreign cells.

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