Chimera: an organism containing a mixture of genetically different tissues, formed by processes such as fusion of early embryos, grafting, or mutation.
Using the CRISPR gene editing technique, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California successfully created the first interspecies breed between humans and pigs in hopes of gaining insights into species evolution, embryogenesis, human disease, as well as generating human organs.
Chimeras have not only been limited to ungulates. The study also demonstrates the ability to transplant human stem cells into mice and rats, albeit inefficient. The researchers concluded the inefficiency results from species-specific differences between human and mouse embryogenesis, nonetheless successful implantations occurred.
The observations reported in this paper revealing the abilities of human stem cells to be implanted into embryos of hoofed mammals (pig and cattle) and rodents, remains to be a largely unethical practice. Such practices are privately funded and are currently ineligible for government funding (National Institutes of Health, 2016).
Like many other technologies, this is definitely a double-edged sword that we all should be skeptical of. How is this technology going to be used? Who is it going to be used by? We must accept the possibility of the creating new strains of incurable viruses and diseases as a result of scientists deciding to experiment and mix species together.
National Institutes of Health. (2016, August 4). Next Steps on Research Using Animal Embryos Containing Human Cells. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://osp.od.nih.gov/under-the-poliscope/2016/08/next-steps-research-using-animal-embryos-containing-human-cells
Wu, J., Platero-Luengo, A., Sakurai, M., Sugawara, A., Gil, M. A., Yamauchi, T., . . . Belmonte, J. C. (2017). Interspecies Chimerism with Mammalian Pluripotent Stem Cells. Cell, 168(3), 473-486. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.12.036
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