A team of researchers from Stanford University has produced the latest results of growing a hybrid species. This time they have merged a sheep embryo with human stem cells. The sheep-human experiment is followed by another experiment which was a pig-human hybrid. This experiment of the pig-human hybrid was done by a team at the University of California, Davis in 2016. The UC Davis experiment was done to find out if human organs can be grown in any other species or not.
The team at Stanford picked sheep for their experiment since the animal’s organs are almost the same size as a human. Therefore, the fertilization will be easier with sheep than pigs. Once the organs are grown, they can then be used for transplantation purposes and can also be helpful to fill the gap between supply and demand for organ transplants in the world.
Salk Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte said, “Of course, the ultimate goal of the chimeric research is to learn whether we can use stem-cell and gene-editing technologies to generate genetically-matched human tissues and organs, and we are very optimistic that continued work will lead to eventual success.” Belmonte, who is an expert in the field of gene-editing has previously researched on the potential of generating human cells and tissues in pigs and cattle. He also worked on growing a rat pancreas, heart and eyes in a developing mouse. This research by Belmonte was done last year.
So far no paper has been published which details the Stanford team’s latest experiment. The work of the team has only been discussed in a presentation at American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. While the experiment they conducted is indeed impressive but it should be noted here that they have not yet produced a fully grown sheep. The experiment also didn’t use a significant amount of human stem cells. Only 0.01% of the cells in the sheep embryo was human which is a very low percentage. It takes almost 1% of human stem cells to grow human organs. The sheep-human embryo was destroyed after 28 days just like the pig-human hybrid.
Since the research on creating a hybrid is increasing soon we will be witnessing comments from all those who will side this research and those who will stand against it. It is somehow against the ethical conundrum but also hard to deny the benefits which we can get from it. In the US alone, on average 22 people die every day who are waiting on the transplant list. If the organs can be obtained from multiple ways it will help to save lives in the future.