Remember Bush’s speech last year where he denounced “human-animal hybrids“? Well, I don’t know about you, but I about fell off the couch laughing. But now it looks like his worst fear has come to pass: a chimeric sheep with 15% human cells, engineered with the hope of animal organs one day being used for human transplants. A University of Nevada scientist, Dr. Esmail Zanjani, has developed the technique which involves integrating human stem cells into a sheep blastocyst.
He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.
The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor’s bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep’s foetus. When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.
Using a couple of ounces of bone marrow from a donor (no small amount really), scientists could isolate enough stem cells to inject into 10 sheep fetuses. According to the article, which is from a UK source, over 7,000 people are awaiting organ transplants and more than two-thirds of them will die before that transplant is made available. Therefore this new technique, if proven successful, could drastically reduce the reliance on human transplant organs and help to save thousands of lives.
Like, totally, Baaah.
I was also thinking that the availability of more organs may help to save the lives of people who would never have made it on the organ recipient list in the first place (because they are too old, sick, etc). In addition, people who have unusual immunological or blood profiles would not have to wait longer for the right match to come along. Organs tailored to the donor can be produced to be a perfect match, which will reduce the likelihood of rejection by the body.
Hat tip Bob Abu.