World’s First Monkey-Pig Hybrids Die Less Than A Week After Birth
Two chimera piglets containing monkey DNA have died within a week of being born in China.
The animals, which had genetic material from cynomolgus monkeys in their heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin, appeared to be normal when they were first born.
They were created by scientists who claim they are trying to find a way of growing human organs in animals for transplantation.
Tang Hai at the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing told New Scientist:
This is the first report of full-term monkey-pig chimeras.
Five-day old piglet embryos were injected with monkey stem cells that had been adjusted to produce a fluorescent protein, which would allow researchers to find out where the cells ended up in their bodies.
According to reports, it’s unknown why the two chimera piglets died, but since the eight other piglets without the monkey cells also died, the scientists believe it’s a problem with the IVF process rather than the chimerism.
However, there has been some pushbacks against the research practice, with some members of the scientific community ruling against creating chimeras over ethical concerns.
Neuroscientist Douglas Munoz at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, told the publication that research projects like this ‘just really ethically scares me’.
For us to start to manipulate life functions in this kind of way without fully knowing how to turn it off or stop it if something goes awry really scares me.
But Munoz’s concerns could continue to grow as China shows no signs of slowing down after proposing in July to create monkeys with partially human-derived brains in a bid to better study diseases such as alzheimer’s.
Yale University stem cell expert Alejandro De Los Angeles has written that the search for a better animal model to stimulate human disease has been a ‘holy grail’ of biomedical research for decades.
Realising the promise of human-monkey chimera research in an ethically and scientifically appropriate manner will require a coordinated approach.
Back in 2017 a human-pig hybrid embryo was created at the Salk Institute in San Diego, but died 28 days later. It is hoped this research could one day lead to an alternative to organ donation.
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