This is historic, for the first time, researchers have successfully grown human cells inside early-stage pig embryos in the lab, creating pig-human hybrids, which the researchers called as “interspecies chimeras.”
According to the researchers, the experiment might one day lead to lab-grown human organs that can be transplanted into those who need them, potentially saving thousands of lives.
In the said experiment, researchers in the US injected human stem cells into early-stage pig embryos.
Thoroughly expalining, these hybrid embryos were then transferred into surrogate sows and allowed to develop until the first trimester.
Researchers has put more than 150 of the embryos developed into chimeras, which meant that they had developed the precursors of organs including the heart and liver, but they contained a small amount of human cells – around one in 10,000 of the hybrids’ cells were human.
This is a proof-of-concept experiment showing that human-pig hybrids are possible, says the working team.
They also said that the ultimate goal is to find a way to use these lab-grown human parts for transplants.
“Our findings may offer hope for advancing science and medicine by providing an unprecedented ability to study early embryo development and organ formation, as well as a potential new avenue for medical therapies,” said team member Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, from the Salk Institute in California.
“We have shown that a precisely targeted technology can allow an organism from one species to produce a specific organ composed of cells from another species,” Belmonte added.
It can be remembered that Dr. Izpisua Belmonte and his team previously performed experiments to create interspecies chimeras in the lab back in 2015.
Their early study successfully integrated human stem cells into mouse embryos, which showed that human stem cells could develop inside another species, creating a world-first chimera.
The term chimera comes from a legend in Greek mythology, describing a monster which was often depicted as a lion with a goat’s head sticking from the side of its neck, and a snake for a tail.
Meanwhile, in biology, it describes the natural or artificial development of one individual organism containing cells from another, and scientists have long been fascinated by them.
“This provides us with an important tool for studying species evolution, biology and disease, and may lead ultimately to the ability to grow human organs for transplant,” Izpisua Belmonte explains.
The team’s work was published in Cell.