Human organs 'could be grown in animals within a year'
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June 20th, 2013 (5:54 PM). Edited June 20th, 2013 by Kanzler.
Join Date: Jul 2008
A panel of scientists and legal experts appointed by the government has drawn up a recommendation that will form the basis of new guidelines for Japan's world-leading embryonic research.
There is widespread support in Japan for research that has raised red flags in other countries. Scientists plan to introduce a human stem cell into the embryo of an animal – most likely a pig – to create what is termed a "chimeric embryo" that can be implanted into an animal's womb.
That will then grow into a perfect human organ, a kidney or even a heart, as the host animal matures.
When the adult creature is slaughtered, the organ will then be harvested and transplanted into a human with a malfunctioning organ.
"This recommendation is a very important step forward and one that has taken us three years to achieve," Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, head of the centre for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the University of Tokyo, told The Daily Telegraph.
Prof Nakauchi's team have already succeeded in injecting stem cells from rats into the embryos of mice that had been genetically altered.
"We can apply the same principles to human stem cells and pigs, although the guidelines have not permitted us to do this yet," he said.
At present, the Japanese guidelines permit scientists to develop chimeric embryos in laboratory conditions for a maximum of 14 days, but the next stage in the process – the embryos being implanted into an animal's womb – is prohibited.
As soon as government officials agree on the details of the revised guidelines – a process that is expected to take 12 months – Prof Nakauchi believes the first pig carrying a human organ can be produced "quite quickly, because the technique has been established already."
The scientists plan to initially breed a pig with a human pancreas as it is a relatively easy organ to create, Prof. Nakauchi said, and perfecting the technique will bring relief to millions of people with diabetes.
Creating kidneys and a human heart will be far more complicated, he said, but are feasible. He suggested that practical use for the organs may be as little as five years away.
Eventually, he hopes to be able to have numerous human organs within each donor animal that can be harvested all at the same time.
Looks like it's finally happening, folks. This issue is multifaceted and I will try to bring a number of themes to light:
1) What do you think about creating a human-animal chimera? Is this breaking the "barriers" of nature? Or is the only barrier what human ingenuity cannot accomplish?
2) I don't think this technique will be extended to humans, for obvious reasons. I can put that previous statement this way: these animals are being used quite simply because they are animals. Is this a step up from what we're used to in terms of using animals as resources? Would it make a difference if you harvested both the meat and the organs? Are animals more than things and are they being commodified too far? Does the need for organ transplants outweigh the ethics of using animals to harvest organs?
3) The United States is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world - much of the high tech innovation going on still occurs there. This is no doubt on the cutting edge of the life sciences. Do you think such advances would be possible in the United States? Do the current political and social climate inhibit scientific development from occurring? If so, is this something worth changing?
I remember the thread about duck-chicken chimeras, and this is along the same vein, but at the same time quite different. Happy discussing!
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