February 16th, 2017
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
“Science is a good piece of furniture for a man to have in an upper chamber, provided he has common sense on the ground floor.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
In Greek mythology, a chimera is a fire-breathing monster created from different species, most often portrayed as a creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail. Chimera have long been regarded as mythical creatures — to the extent that the word “chimera” also means “an illusion or fabrication of the mind” or “an unrealizable dream”1 — and the idea of a human-animal chimera has remained confined largely to mythology, however — until now.
Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, have made history by creating a human-pig hybrid, a task achieved by injecting days-old pig embryos with human pluripotent stem cells.2 Such cells, like embryonic stem cells, are able to divide indefinitely and become any type of cell in the body. The human-pig embryos were then transferred into adult pigs and allowed to grow for up to four weeks, before they were “removed and analyzed.”3
The study noted that more than 2,000 hybrid embryos were transferred into surrogate sows, but only 186 later-stage chimeric embryos survived the process, each with about 1 in 100,000 human cells.
The stated goal of such research is to figure out if it’s possible to grow human organs inside other species, like pigs. Human embryo development, drug development and disease processes could also be studied using chimeras.
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