Japanese Stem-cell scientist has been the first to receive government support to create animal embryos that contain human cells and transplant them into surrogate animals. The goal is to produce animals with organs made of human cells that can eventually be transplanted into people. The ban on the practice was overturned earlier in 2019.
The leading scientist in the experiment is Hiromitsu Nakauchi. Nakauchi, leads a team at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California. Nakauchi plans to grow human cells in mouse and rat embryos and then transplant those embryos into surrogate animals.
In March, 2019, Japan forbade the growth of animal embryos containing human cells beyond 14 days. However, later that month new guidelines were created allowing the creation of human-animal embryos transplant by Japan’s education and science ministry.
The initial growth of animal embryos will surpass the previous 14 day guidelines. Nakauchi plans to apply government approval to grow hybrid embryos in pigs for up to 70 days. Eventually, scientists are planning to use this experiment as a means to provide to people with organ transplant needs.
Bioethicists raised ethical concerns about the possibility that human cells might stray beyond development of the targeted organ, travel to the developing animal’s brain and potentially affect its cognition.
Some experiments have shown difficulties for the development of human cells in animal embryos. Nakauchi says Japan’s approval will allow him to work on this problem. He will be experimenting with iPS cells and trying some genetically modified iPS cells to determine what limits the growth of human cells in animal embryos.
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