First time ever: Scientists given permission to breed human-animal hybrids

You’ve no doubt heard of any number of mythical creatures that combine parts of both humans and animals.

Mermaids come to mind, as do centaurs and minotaurs. Of course, these fabulous creations are just that: creations. They’re not real, because, well, humans are humans and animals are animals.

Or at least that’s how it’s been up until now.

According to reports, the Japanese Ministry have confirmed that they’re to begin work on a project that will include implanting human cell-infused embryos into rodents. This follows the passing of a controversial piece of legislation last year, one that not only gave the go-ahead for scientists to implant hybrid embryos into animals, but also permitted them to bring them to term.

Now, it’s important to note at this point that the overall aim isn’t to create some sort of bizarre new cross-species, but rather to grow viable human transplant organs in animals.

Stem cell biologist Hiromitsu Nakauchi told The Asahi Shimbun: “We don’t expect to create human organs immediately, but this allows us to advance our research based upon the know-how we have gained up to this point.”

It’s Nakauchi’s plan – with the help of his team – to harvest a pancreas that contains human cells in mice. They aim to grow the embryo almost fully to term (15.5 days to be exact), before harvesting it. If successful, they plan to move on to doing the same in pigs, if they can obtain permission to do so.

(Artists impression below *not real)

Patricia Piccinini

According to reports, “The Japanese Government has stipulated that an embryo with a brain consisting of more than 30 per cent human cells must be destroyed.” That’s in a bid to prevent the birth of a creature that could contain both human and animal genes.

Nakauchi, however, wants to allay fears that things could well take a turn for the creepy.

“The number of human cells grown in the bodies of sheep is extremely small, like one in thousands or one in tens of thousands,” he said.

“At that level, an animal with a human face will never be born.”

(Artists impression below *not real)

Of course, despite what Nakauchi says, there are many who believe such projects to be in violation of ethical practise.

What do you think? Should scientists be able to explore such methods of growing new organs? Let us know in the comments box below.

Perhaps it’s not such a good thing that humans try to play at being God? If you agree, share this article on Facebook!

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