Human organs could be harvested by pigs through stem cell breakthroughs

Submitted by amrevieL on Sat, 06/25/2011 - 01:41.

Pigs might be able to be used to grow human organs within the next ten years, thanks to a breakthrough in stem cell research. It will be years before it can be done, however, since the process involves a substantial quantity of genetic manipulation. Resource for this article: Human organs could be grown by pigs through stem cell advances by

Used in mice to see if it worked

The Telegraph reports that there was a breakthrough in stem cell research that could allow human organs to be grown in pigs in the next 10 years. A type of stem cells called pluripotent stem cells from one animal - stem cells that can develop into several different types of tissue - are injected into the embryo of a different but comparable animal. Soon enough, the genetically modified living thing will grow. The animals will be able to take the pluripotent stem cells and create a different organ to grow. The procedure has been named. It is called blastocyst complementation.

Ethics plays a role

In the recent experiments, mice embryos with a gene causing them to not grow a pancreas were injected with pluripotent stem cells from rats. The result was the mice grew a rat pancreas that allowed them to fully absorb insulin, the hormone that allows the body to ingest sugars.

The lead scientist in the experiment, Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi from the University of Tokyo, maintains that there is much work to do before human organs could be produced in a similar fashion. Nakauchi uses a special form of stem cells. They are called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs for short. The procedure utilizes adult stem cells to work. It utilizes the cell to express certain genes and turn other cells into the correct stem cell needed. The procedure does not use embryonic cells.

Nakauchi notes that there are ethical concerns, particularly when it comes to appeasing critics who fear the dark research fiction scenario in which humans are utilized as organ farms. He stresses that once it is determined whether pigs can safely be used to grow human organs, stem cell ethics dictate that the process wouldn't then be applied to humans harvesting organs for other humans.

The uses of stem cells

Stem cells, embryonic or otherwise, are at the forefront of medical research and they show a fantastic amount of potential for helping to save lives. In order to reverse macular degeneration, the Jules Stein Eye Institute has been working with embryonic stem cells, as reported by Reuters. Macular degeneration is the leading vision loss cause. If the research progresses, there will probably not be a shortfall in transplant organs anymore. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are an average 3,000 individuals waiting every day for the 2,000 hearts that become available each year.

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