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Two pigs engineered to have monkey cells born in China

Published: December 7, 2019
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Pig-primate chimeras have been born live for the first time but died within a week. The two piglets, created by a team in China, looked normal although a small proportion of their cells were derived from cynomolgus monkeys.

“This is the first report of full-term pig-monkey chimeras,” says Tang Hai at the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing.

The ultimate aim of the work is to grow human organs in animals for transplantation. But the results show there is still a long way to go to achieve this, the team says.

Hai and his colleagues genetically modified cynomolgus monkey cells growing in culture so they produced a fluorescent protein called GFP. This enabled the researchers to track the cells and their descendents. They then derived embryonic stem cells from the modified cells and injected them into pig embryos five days after fertilisation.

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Scientists in China claim to have created the world’s first human-monkey hybrid. The research team is actually from Spain, but they conducted their study in China to avoid regulations against this type of experimentation. Last week, Japanese scientists made the shocking announcement that they were planning on creating human-rodent hybrid embryos for the purpose of growing organs for transplants.

Researchers led by Spanish scientist Juan Carlos Izpisúa have created for the first time a human-monkey hybrid in a laboratory in China – an important step towards using animals for human organ transplants, project collaborator Estrella Núñez confirmed to EL PAÍS.

A team of scientists has grown embryos inside a sheep that contain human stem cells, moving the sci-fi idea of developing human organs inside animals one step closer to reality, which has sparked ethical concerns.

Braving a funding ban put in place by America’s top health agency, some U.S. research centers are moving ahead with attempts to grow human tissue inside pigs and sheep with the goal of creating hearts, livers, or other organs needed for transplants. Based on interviews with three teams, two in California and one in Minnesota, MIT Technology Review estimates that about 20 pregnancies of pig-human or sheep-human chimeras have been established during the last 12 months in the U.S., though so far no scientific paper describing the work has been published, and none of the animals were brought to term.

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