A NEW KIND OF CHIMERIC

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Researchers have produced sheep-human hybrid embryos that could one day represent the future of organ donation – by using body parts grown inside unnatural, engineered animals. “The contribution of human cells so far is very small. It’s nothing like a pig with a human face or human brain,” stem cell biologist Hiro Nakauchi from Stanford University told media at a presentation of the research in Austin, Texas, explaining that, by cell
count, only about one in 10,000 cells (or less) in the sheep embryos are human. The research builds on previous experiments by some of the same team that saw scientists successfully grow human cells inside early-stage pig embryos in the lab, creating pig-human hybrids that the researchers described as interspecies chimeras. While the ‘mad
scientist’ stereotype is fully present and accounted for in this kind of research, these divisive experiments could one day provide a unique solution for the thousands of people on donation waiting lists for livesaving organs – most of whom die before compatible body parts can be sourced for them, the researchers explain.