Japanese scientists are seeking approval for making experiments on animal-human embryos that could result in human organs being grown inside the body of an animal. Then the organs could be harvested and used for human patients that are in need.
Researchers want to introduce a human stem cell into an animal embryo, to create a so-called “chimeric embryo”, which they can implant into an animal’s womb. The scientists hope that the stem cells will grow into healthy, fully-functioning human organs, such as a heart or a liver, that will be used afterwards to replace ill human organs.
“Experts will study what possibilities this kind of research will generate,” especially with regard to ethics and human dignity, a government official said.
The government officials will analyze the scientists’ recommendation next month. The government committee is expected to start creating guidelines setting the limits of Japan’s embryonic research, the international press comments.
Japan currently allows scientists to grow chimeric embryos for two weeks in test-tubes, but prohibits them from putting those embryos into an animal’s womb, the official said.
The scientists team, led by Hiromitsu Nakauchi of Tokyo University, want to implant a chimeric embryo made from a fertilized pig egg and a human induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cell into a pig’s womb.
It is a controversial method because the embryo has to be destroyed, a process to which religious conservatives, among others, object.