Human-Pig Hybrid Research Continues: Why Scientists Develop Chimeras

Despite ongoing controversies surrounding the topic, the development of a human-pig hybrid is underway.

Reports indicate that scientists are pursuing the creation of chimeras with specific objectives in mind.

What is the Human-Pig Hybrid?

A chimera, though akin to cloning, is distinct due to the source of the transplanted nucleus. A human chimera refers to a person comprising two distinct cellular sources. The human-pig chimera, however, is formed using a pig’s egg while the nucleus is derived from a human.

Contrary to expectations that the embryo would be half-human and half-pig, the embryo is predominantly human. In fact, only about 0.1% of its genetic composition is pig DNA, as highlighted by Telegraph.

This minimal pig DNA percentage is attributed to the mitochondrial DNA present in the egg, which contains a mere 37 genetic instructions compared to the 29,000 instructions in the nucleus. Given that the nucleus is human, the resulting embryo is almost entirely human.

Utilizing human embryos for such research is not an option, owing to financial, ethical, and legal constraints. Moreover, these hybrid embryos and their stem cells are earmarked exclusively for research, with no intent for implantation.

human pig chimera embryo

The core aim of this hybrid research is to delve deeper into human diseases to find potential treatments, especially for conditions like familial heart disease. By observing how DNA from individuals with critical genetic disorders guides early cellular growth, scientists hope to gain insights into heart disease and advance treatment strategies.

Another pivotal research focus is understanding the interplay between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. This knowledge could pave the way for drug treatments for genetic anomalies and the development of lab-created stem cells capable of treating conditions like spinal injuries, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

While this concept is promising, it’s important to note that the research is still in its nascent stages and the efficacy of the DNA combination remains to be determined.

Progress in Human-Pig Chimera Creation

Back in 2017, the Salk Institute took a monumental step by creating a chimera from two species – human and pig.

human pig chimera research

According to National Geographic, researchers successfully introduced human cells into pig embryos which survived. These embryos were subsequently implanted into adult pigs, which carried them for nearly a month before extraction and analysis.

Jun Wu, the lead author of the study, reported that 186 mature chimeric embryos were produced, with an approximate ratio of one human cell to 100,000 pig cells.

However, stem cell specialist Ke Cheng from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University remarked that this was a relatively low human cell count. The presence of human tissue seemingly hindered the embryos’ growth rate.

As a result, organs cultivated from such embryos could likely be deemed incompatible with humans due to the significant pig tissue content.

This groundbreaking research was published in the renowned journal, Cell.

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