Two piglets with the DNA of both pigs and monkeys were born in a China laboratory.
Both animals looked like piglets but their make-up comprised genetic material from cynomolgus monkeys in essential parts of their body such as the liver, lungs, spleen, skin, and heart.
The research, which used over 4,000 embryos to make the monkey-pig hybrids, will assist further studies to find ways of making human organs in animals for transplants.
Both piglets passed away within a week.
Tang Hai of the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology said to New Scientists: “This is the first report of full-term monkey-pig chimeras.”
5-day old piglet embryos had monkey stem cells injected into them that had been changed to have a fluorescent protein so scientists can find out where the cells would end up.
Researchers said it was not clear why the two chimera piglets passed away but since 8 other normal piglets that received implants also passed away, they believe there is a problem with the IVF process.
Many members of the scientific community have warned against making chimeras because of ethical concerns.
Douglas Munoz, a neuroscientist at Queen’s University in Canada, said that such research projects ‘just really ethically scares me.’
He added: “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 China doesn’t show any signs of stopping after making a proposal in July to create monkeys with partially human-derived brains to better study brain diseases.
Alejandro De Los Angeles, a Yale University stem cell expert, wrote that the search for a better animal model to start human disease has been a ‘holy grail’ of biomedical research.
He added: “Realising the promise of human-monkey chimera research in an ethically and scientifically appropriate manner will require a coordinated approach.”
Source: Daily Mail
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