The University of Tokyo announced the start of an experiment to grow human pancreases in pigs for transplantation.
The initial plan is to launch the first project in the nation to grow human organs within animals in the span of a year. The hurdles they have yet to overcome involve seeking government and university screening clearance.
The genetically engineered pancreases will then be used to treat disorders including Diabetes over the next 10 years.
The news follows the lifting of a ban producing animals with embryos containing human cells. The ban was in effect due to the supply of donated organs lagging behind the patients’ demand for transplants.
The research team would inject human stem cells into a genetically modified pig embryo which would be unable to develop a pancreas. After that, a surrogate sow would be inseminated with the embryo which would later be removed, upon its growth into a fully formed fetus. The amount of pancreatic tissue would be evaluated to determine how well it functions.
While I am usually averse to the inclusion of animals in the advancement of science, the possibility of Diabetes, one day being curable is something that fascinates me. Currently, it’s pancreases but in a few years from now, it may be kidneys or even hearts which could be the world’s solution to slow-moving transplant lists.