NEWS AND VIEWS: Scientists in China have been able to grow kidneys that are 60% human in terms of their cellular structure inside pigs in a quest to solve the problem of supply and demand in terms of kidney transplants. They think that they might be able to grow an unlimited number of organs for transplant inside pigs in the future. The pig is being abused and exploited you could argue but the counter argument is that they are saving people’s lives and therefore it is justified.
Scientists at Guang Zhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health implanted human stem cells into pig embryos in a novel way to make sure that they developed human rather than pig kidneys. The embryos were then implanted into sows and allowed to develop for between 25-28 days.
They were able to grow kidneys that were “structurally normal for their stage of development” and remarkably they were made up of 60% human cells. The rest of the embryo was composed almost entirely of pig cells. A small number of human cells were in the pig embryo’s brain and spinal cord.
In the UK, for instance, there are 5,564 people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant which is more than three times the number waiting for all other organs combined. They wait for an average of 2 to 3 years.
The research is published in a study document in the journal Cell Stem Cell. The report states: “The results indicate that it might be possible to generate a functional human kidney inside newborn pigs, offering an attractive alternative to overcome the shortage of human organs for transplantation.”
The process includes the following four steps:
- Single-cell pig embryos are genetically engineered so they are missing two genes needed for kidney development.
- Human pluripotent stem cells – capable of becoming any cell-type – are converted into ‘naïve’ cells resembling early human embryonic cells.
- The human stem cells are then implanted into the genetically modified pig embryos.
- The embryos are then implanted into surrogate cells and allowed to develop a 25 to 28 days.
Personal note: I don’t like it. Just me. We need to do more to help animals. There are enough humans on the planet as it is.