Using domestic animals to make human organs

TAKE the fertilised egg of a pig. From each cell in the resulting embryo cut out a gene or genes that promote the development of the animal’s heart. Inject human stem cells from a patient who needs a new heart into the embryo and then place it into the womb of a sow. Wait nine months. The result is an adult pig with a heart made of human cells. The pig can be slaughtered and the heart transplanted into the patient who provided the stem cells, for whom the organ will be a genetic match.

That, at least, is the hope of a panel of researchers who presented their work to the the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Austin, Texas. For, though this kind of biological melding may trip the disgust circuits, the value of such a procedure, were it possible, is clear.

First, transplantable organs are scarce and demand for them is increasing. As life in general, and cars in particular, become safer, the supply of bodies with healthy organs…Continue reading

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