Recent research is testing whether or not human organs can be grown in pigs! Now, this may sound a little wild, however, this challenge to science is really quite interesting.
Let’s delve into this and how exactly these tests work. The process is completed in stages, with the first stage using CRISPR gene editing. This technique takes away the gene that codes for the growth of a specific pig organ. Human stem cells are then injected into the embryo which had the pig organ gene taken away. This is done with hopes that when the embryo is placed into a mother pig, the human organ would grow inside the embryo which could one day be removed and placed on a human transplant.
Now that we know the “how” let’s investigate the why. The American Transplant Foundation reports that 22 people die every day waiting for organ donations and those who remain alive as they wait often suffer deeply. The goal of this research is to save human lives so that the number of people who die while waiting for an organ to save them can be greatly, if not totally, reduced. Also, this project opens the possibility of using the organ recipient’s own stem cells as an injection into the embryo which would then end the need for the patient to take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their life, as their body will not reject an organ it sees as its’ own.
Why is anyone opposed? Well, there are a few reasons. There is a risk that the baby pigs could develop human-like brains. So far the tests have been cut off at a certain timeline, therefore, preventing this from happening. Another worry is that the pigs DNA could alter the injected DNA. Lastly, many question whether or not it is ethical to grow pigs solely for the need of an organ for a human.
Personally, I think the gain is bigger than the risk. We know for a fact that people are dying and suffering as they wait for their organs. We do not know for certain what could happen with the pig embryos, but if this new method can save lives, then I am all for it! Farms currently grow pigs to sell them as bacon, sausage and other various forms of meat. So why not use them to grow an organ, save a life, and then put them in a grocery store. Would that in itself cause another ethical question? Would people buy bacon made by a pig that also made a human organ? There are so many hypotheticals, but based on the facts, this could prove to be very beneficial.
Watch the video and read the article here! Leave your opinion in the comments below.