Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

US lab attempting to grow pig embryos with human pancreases

13 June 2016

By Dr Jane Currie

Appeared in BioNews 855

Scientists have used CRISPR to create part-pig, part-human embryos in an attempt to grow human organs for transplant.

BBC Panorama followed a team from the University of California, Davis, which used the genome-editing technique to cut out the section of the pig DNA that codes for the pig's pancreas. They then injected pig embryos with human induced pluripotent stem cells. The embryos were examined at 28 days.

'Our hope is that this pig embryo will develop normally but the pancreas will be made almost exclusively out of human cells and could be compatible with a patient for transplantation,' explained Dr Pablo Ross, lead researcher on the study.

Where the pig embryo lacks genetic instructions for producing a pancreas, human stem cells would substitute this, allowing development of a human pancreas. 'You are basically creating a vacuum, a hole, so that the human cells respond to the right cues; they make a pancreas. The pig cells can't,' explained Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute, London, who was not involved in the study.

He added: 'What we don't know – and this is what they need to look at – is whether the human cells can also contribute substantially to other tissues, and particularly they are worried about the brain.'

Professor Ross said that the research was proceeding with caution for this reason: 'We think there is very low potential for a human brain to grow, but this is something we will be investigating.'

Currently there is a worldwide shortage of organs for transplantation. Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, told BBC News that 'gene editing could ensure the [pig] organs are very clean, available on demand and healthy, so they could be superior to human donor organs'.

Concerns about these so-called chimeras developing human-like features led the US National Institutes for Health to issue a moratorium on funding for such research in 2015 (see BioNews 827).

There is also a risk of rejection of human organs grown from pig embryos. As Professor Lovell-Badge explained: 'There are other cell types that are going to be present in the pancreas which come from the pig – including blood vessels. Those would be a big problem and they would be rejected by a human.' Another potential concern is that animal viruses could be transmitted to humans via the organs.

Sir John Burn, professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University, who was not involved in the research, said: 'I think this is exciting because it is a sensible, practical application of revolutionary new science in the form of induced pluripotent stem cells and gene editing, and I think it is very exciting to bring them together. But I also know it is a long way from exciting ideas to the clinic.'

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

30 January 2017 - by Annabel Slater 
The first early human–pig embryo chimeras have been created by researchers at the Salk Institute, California...
30 January 2017 - by Arit Udoh 
Insulin-producing cells from pancreases grown in rats can cure diabetes when transplanted into mice, according to a study...
05 September 2016 - by Anneesa Amjad 
A prominent bioethicist in the USA has suggested that most of the ethical concerns surrounding the creation of animal-human chimera embryos using human pluripotent stem cells could be reasonably addressed...
08 August 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The US National Institutes of Health is considering lifting a ban on the funding of research to create human-animal 'chimeras' and replacing it with an ethical review process...
20 June 2016 - by Rachel Reeves 
A US federal safety board is set to review an application for the first in-human use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology to treat cancer...

09 November 2015 - by Dr Jane Currie 
A group of researchers have called for an overturn of a recent decision by the National Institutes of Health to suspend funding for research on human–animal chimeras...
09 January 2012 - by Suzanne Elvidge 
Three chimeric rhesus monkeys born in the USA have been described as the world's first primate chimeras...
10 April 2007 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has challenged the UK Government's decision to propose a ban on the creation of hybrid or chimera embryos, calling such a move 'unnecessary'. In the report, the MPs said: 'We find that the creation of human-animal chimera or hybrid...
05 March 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The UK Government's chief scientific adviser has expressed his support for proposals to use animal eggs in the creation of human embryonic stem (ES) cells for research purposes. Sir David King said last week that such work should be allowed under tight regulations, adding that it...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust
Advertise your products and services HERE - click for further details

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation