Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In a bid to tackle the worldwide shortage of transplant organs, US scientists have injected human stem cells into pig embryos to produce human-pig embryos known as chimeras.
According to researchers at the University of California, Davis, the chimeric embryos should look like a normal pig's embryo, except one of their organs - the pancreas - that will be made completely from human cells.
The embryos are being allowed to mature for 28 days in the sows before terminating the pregnancies and removing the tissue for analysis.
Scientists believe the animals, which would have a human internal organ, could serve as a source of organ donors for life-saving transplants.
"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," Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist who is leading the research told the BBC.
However, the work is controversial and last year, the main US medical research agency, the National Institutes of Health, imposed a moratorium on funding such experiments.
The main concern is that that the presence of human cells in animals could affect their brain and behaviour, potentially making it more human.
Critics also say it could lead to the development of organ farms.
The team hopes the human stem cells will take advantage of the genetic niche in the pig embryo and the resulting foetus will grow a human pancreas.