In a presentation to the European Society of Human Genetics, Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, from the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Tokyo, has elaborated on a study that was made using adult stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells. The proposition is that these stem cells, which can be taken from the human body, could be nurtured to grow into any organ of choice, inside another species.
This study could have far reaching implications considering the constant shortage of human organs for transplantation. Further, the compatibility of transplanted organs that remains a constant issue could potentially be solved.
The scientists involved are of the opinion that it is possible to create organs of one species inside another species, based on their existing research. This fact has already been put to test in the case of mice and rats. Scientists successfully injected stem cells from rats into embryos of mice with no pancreases. These mice grew to have the pancreases of rats.
Researchers believe that the same technique could be used to encourage the growth of human organs in pigs. The stem cells of patients in need of new organs could be injected into pigs. The human organs that would grow in the altered pigs could then be used for transplantation. It is thought the added advantage of this technique would be that the stem cells used in pigs would be from patients, hence there would be less chance the body would reject the organ after transplantation.
This experiment apparently holds some promise for those suffering from diabetes. The evidence from the research on mice suggests that stem cells from humans could be used to grow human pancreases in pigs. It is also thought that growing human organs in pigs could help in cases that require kidney transplantations.
This research is still in its infancy. However, it has been asserted that this is among the most promising techniques that could initiate many groundbreaking changes in the medical field. The problem of the lack of available organs for transplantation could be overcome if this field of study is further developed.
How do you feel about this kind of experimentation, and the prospect of human organs being grown inside other animals for human use? Ethically, is it much different from growing animals for human consumption?