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Scientists take first steps to growing human organs in pigs

  • This undated photo provided by the Salk Institute on Jan. 24, 2017 shows a 4-week-old pig embryo which had been injected with human stem cells. The experiment was a very early step toward the possibility of growing human organs inside animals for transplantation. (Salk Institute via AP)

  • This undated photo provided by the Salk Institute on Jan. 24, 2017 shows the injection of human stem cells into a pig blastocyst. A laser beam, indicated by a green circle with a red cross inside, was used to perforate the outer membrane to allow easy access for the needle. The experiment was a very early step toward the possibility of growing human organs inside animals for transplantation. (Salk Institute via AP)


Associated Press
Thursday, January 26, 2017

Scientists have grown human cells inside pig embryos, a very early step toward the goal of growing livers and other human organs inside animals to transplant into people.

The cells made up just a tiny part of each embryo, and the embryos were grown for only a few weeks, researchers reported Thursday.

Such human-animal research has raised ethical concerns. The U.S. government suspended taxpayer funding of experiments in 2015. The new work, done in California and Spain, was paid for by private foundations.

Any growing of human organs in pigs is “far away,” said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., an author of the paper in the journal Cell.

He said the new research is “just a very early step toward the goal.”

Even before that is achieved, he said, putting human cells in animals could pay off for studies of how genetic diseases develop and for screening potential drugs.

Animals with cells from different species are called chimeras.