Scientists have achieved a major breakthrough in the field of organ transplantation by successfully growing humanised kidneys in pigs. This groundbreaking research involved the creation of human-pig chimera embryos, which are embryos that contain a combination of human and pig cells. These embryos were then transferred into surrogate pig mothers, where they developed kidneys that mostly consisted of human cells. This is the first time that scientists have been able to grow a solid humanised organ inside another animal.
Previous attempts to grow human organs in pigs have not been successful, but this new research has shown promising results. However, it is important to note that the kidneys were not entirely human, as they still contained vasculature and nerves that were mostly made up of pig cells. It remains uncertain whether a fully human organ can be created using current genetic engineering techniques.
Although this breakthrough is exciting, it is unlikely that there will be immediate clinical applications for this research. The potential for a humanised brain is also a serious ethical concern in these types of studies involving hybrid embryos. In the UK, it is permitted to introduce human embryonic cells into animal embryos, but further development is not allowed.
The latest research was able to overcome previous challenges by genetically engineering a single-cell pig embryo. These embryos were then transferred to 13 surrogate sows and were assessed after 25 or 28 days. The embryos showed structurally normal kidneys that were composed of 50-60% human cells. Human neural cells were also found in the brain and spinal cord of the embryos.
While this research shows significant progress, creating a fully human kidney inside a pig is expected to take many years and involve complex engineering challenges. However, this breakthrough brings hope for the future of organ transplantation and could potentially save countless lives.
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