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Earth Science

First Human-Pig 'Chimera' Created in Milestone Study (theguardian.com) 158

Scientists have created a human-pig hybrid in a milestone study that raises the prospect of being able to grow human organs inside animals for use in transplants. From a report: It marks the first time that embryos combining two large, distantly-related species have been produced. The creation of this so-called chimera -- named after the cross-species beast of Greek mythology -- has been hailed as a significant first step towards generating human hearts, livers and kidneys from scratch. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the work on the part-pig, part-human embryos at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, said: "The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that. This is an important first step." The study has reignited ethical concerns that have threatened to overshadow the field's clinical promise. The work inevitably raises the spectre of intelligent animals with humanised brains and also the potential for bizarre hybrid creatures to be accidentally released into the wild. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) placed a moratorium on funding for the controversial experiments last year while these risks were considered.
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First Human-Pig 'Chimera' Created in Milestone Study

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  • by Lead Butthead ( 321013 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @06:41PM (#53745277) Journal

    man-bear-pig?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    than the White House.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...but not one to Margaret Atwood? Don't forget the pigoons from Oryx and Crake [wikipedia.org]* which were created specifically for organ transplantation.

    The goal of the pigoon project was to grow an assortment of foolproof human-tissue organs... that would transplant smoothly and avoid rejection, but would also be able to fend off attacks by opportunistic microbes and viruses... A rapid-maturity gene was spliced in so the pigoon kidneys and livers and hearts would be ready sooner...

    * IMNSHO one of the best sci-fi works o

    • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @06:54PM (#53745347) Journal

      Slashdot is just full of uncultured swine. ;-)

    • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:25PM (#53745557) Journal

      The Hyperpigs in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series were also human-pig chimeras created originally for human transplant organs;

      "The soldier whipped the blanket away from the huddled figure.

      The prisoner, crouched into a small foetal shape, squealed against the sudden intrusion of light, hiding its dark-adapted eyes.

      Clavain stared. The prisoner was nothing that he had been expecting. At first glance it might have been taken for an adolescent human, for the proportions and size were roughly analogous. A naked human at that - unclothed pink human-looking flesh folded away into the hole. There was a horrid expanse of burned skin around its upper arm, all ridges and whorls of pink and deathly white.

      Clavain was looking at a hyperpig; a genetic chimera of pig and human...

      Somewhere before the dawn of the Demarchist era, in the twenty-first or twenty-second century, not far from the time of Clavain's own birth, a spectrum of human genes had been spliced into those of the domestic pig. The intention had been to optimise the ease with which organs could be transplanted between the two species, enabling pigs to grow body parts that could be harvested later for human utilisation... The genetic intervention had gone too far, achieving not just cross-species compatibility but something entirely unexpected: intelligence. " From Redemption Ark, by Alastair Reynolds, 2002

      • by hondo77 ( 324058 )
        I'm glad I'll be dead before we reach that point. The rest of you will have to figure that mess out.
        • Ensure we don't give apes higher intelligence for the purpose of using them as workers. If they learned to fight we could end up in a world run by them.
        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          I don't see what is so intrinsically different about sharing the planet with a different intelligent species. For most of H. sapiens' existence we shared it with other human species. In our fantasies of places like Middle Earth we share it with other intelligent species... not to mention Narnia.

          We're not exactly doing a terrific job coexisting with other people of our species that have different opinions from us. That suggests our problems are cultural, not biological.

      • Simply as a "prediction" of the future of biotechnology, the intelligent pig scenario sounds like mad science at best, a vanity project of no great economic or military value. Before our descendants reach the point where they can grow pigs for transplantation, a means of growing organs without bodies will be invented. I mean why grow a whole pig, when all you want is the heart? There are now efforts to grow artificial meat I don't see why this technology, if successful, couldn't be developed further and ada
        • Before our descendants reach the point where they can grow pigs for transplantation, a means of growing organs without bodies will be invented.

          Our descendants? I'm not sure how old you are, but it might be in our lifetime. There was just an article about scientists using a rat-mouse chimera to grow a mostly mouse pancreas. This was used to transplant cells into diabetic mice and cure their diabetes.

          I mean why grow a whole pig, when all you want is the heart?

          1, growing a pig is an easy, well documented process. 2, you might want multiple organs from the pig.

  • I can have bacon made from my donor pig, I'm good.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @06:54PM (#53745349) Journal

    Show respect for the office.

    • by Shoten ( 260439 )

      Show respect for the office.

      I applaud you, Sir...for I was going to make some variant of the joke, but indeed your appeal to reason did work. Still, the temptation remains strong; it's hard to keep the respect for the office when the one who holds the office himself seems to lack such respect. But yeah...the higher road is like that, isn't it?

      Bravo, Sir, bravo!

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Obvious? The obvious joke to a normal human would be a "The Island of Doctor Moreau" reference.

      I had to google to find otherwise. South Park? I had kids and watched them grow in adults since that show was funny.
      Next you'll be telling me The Simpsons or Family Guy is still in production.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      He's not a pig, but the annoying orange, after it grew arms and legs.

  • death....to the stranger.

  • If this produces the inevitable result [pinimg.com]
  • Wake me when you can just grow the organs.

    Bonus points when you can make the tissue grow into any design you want. I want my 200 year rated super heart.

  • by FFOMelchior ( 979131 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:08PM (#53745425)
    Ed... ward....
  • The human/pig has been around for a while now, and even has her own tv show. Here's what she looks like now. [tvinsider.com]

  • These creatures were featured on Doctor Who [wikia.com].
  • by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:19PM (#53745497) Homepage
    Anybody else get a sudden hankering for a BLT?
  • "Dr. Eugene McCarthy is a Ph.D. geneticist who has made a career out of studying hybridization in animals. He now curates a biological information website called Macroevolution.net where he has amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that human origins can be best explained by hybridization between pigs and chimpanzees."

    https://phys.org/news/2013-07-... [phys.org]

    • Huh. I sure didn't guess that one, but maybe it makes sense?

      the "direction of the cross" would likely have been a male boar or pig (Sus scrofa) with a female chimp (Pan troglodytes), and the offspring would have been nurtured by a chimp mother among chimpanzees. there's even a creepy possibility that hybridization might even still be occurring in regions where Sus and Pan still seem to come into contact, like Southern Sudan.

      I didn't know that pigs and chimpanzees come in contact with each other that way, and it's still a little hard to believe.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        but bacon is delicious...

      • No, it makes no sense. It doesn't even make nonsense.

        http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn... [scienceblogs.com]

        > The primate and artiodactyl lineages have diverged for roughly 80 million years — just the gradual accumulation of molecular differences in sperm and egg recognition proteins would mean that pig sperm wouldn’t recognize a chimpanzee egg as a reasonable target for fusion. Heck, even two humans will have these sorts of mating incompatibilities. Two species that haven’t had any intermingling populations

  • by Bryan Ischo ( 893 ) * on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:20PM (#53745507) Homepage

    Many of the issues they appear to be studying do not require the use of human cells. For example, they talk about not knowing what would happen if the animal were to complete gestation since pigs only gestate for 112 days, but human embryos gestate for 9 months.

    Well, then use two different animals that have vastly different gestation periods, and see what happens. You don't need to use human cells to find that out.

    They also talk about not knowing whether or not the cells would migrate to the brain.

    Again, use something else. Like, a mouse and an elephant. Or whatever.

    It seems premature to be using human cells in these experiments if they haven't already answered these questions with other animal chimeras.

    Which makes me wonder, why are they using human cells at all? Are they just going for headlines or what?

    • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @08:08PM (#53745799) Homepage

      They are using human cells because they want to be able to grow a human kidney, lung, heart, pancreas, etc. and transplant them into people that need them.

      The current wait for a kidney is almost 10 years in certain states. Average life expectancy on dialysis is 5 years. You do the math.

      The procedure works as follows. Take the human cells and break the genes that make neurons. Take the pig embryonic cells and break the genes that makes kidneys. Add a single human cell to the pig embryos. You get a pig that's brain is 100% pig, whose kidneys are 100% human, and the rest of the body is 95% pig, 5% human. Take the kidney and transplant to a human in need.

      Like me for example.

      • But it sounds like they're not doing the experiments in the right order. They're starting with human cells which end up leaving more questions unanswered because they can't carry the experiments out the way they would be able to with pure animal cells. If they started with pure animal cells they could answer the more fundamental questions quickly and this could lead them to more quickly answering the remaining questions using human cells.

        I guess they could do all this in parallel though, which I hope they

      • Take the human cells and break the genes that make neurons

        Easy, if we knew exactly which genes controlled the development of the human brain. We don't, we can make educated and informed guesses but do we know if there is a enzyme or protein that is produced by human cells that triggers the development of higher cognitive functions?

        And what if the creature did develop higher brain functions? Pigs are already pretty smart, what if one of these test subjects scratches "No kill I" in the dirt?

        That said I agree that we have to keep doing research into this, the ben

        • by The_Noid ( 28819 )

          And what if the creature did develop higher brain functions? Pigs are already pretty smart, what if one of these test subjects scratches "No kill I" in the dirt?

          Then that one doesn't get killed, and the procedure for treating the human cells is improved so it doesn't happen again.
          And that specimen is studied intensively of course... In an environment of its choosing so it is as happy as it can be.

          • And that specimen is studied intensively of course... In an environment of its choosing so it is as happy as it can be.

            So, just like us regular humans then?

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          From TFA:

          âoeWe didnâ(TM)t see any human cells in the brain region, but we cannot exclude the possibility that they may have gone to the brain,â said Izpisua Belmonte.

          It might not actually be necessary to turn the genes that contribute to brain development off, if it can be shown that no significant amount of human cells go that region.

    • Additionally, given that there is no such thing as a "gene that makes kidneys" or a "gene that makes neurons", only "genes that make proteins", I expect you'd have to very subtly change a whole lot of genes in order to actually selectively stop just one kind of organ generation, and even then you'd probably get an imperfect version of that organ.

      I thought they were just trying to make the pig "human enough" that its kidneys would work, as piggy as they still might be, in a human.

      But you know, I really ought

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:21PM (#53745517)

    I mean, it's not "Island of Dr. Moreau" level creepy, but it's a start.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:23PM (#53745533)

    Ki...llll.....mee....eeee

  • facilities (Score:3, Funny)

    by siamesevodka ( 1852446 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @07:24PM (#53745545)
    The facilities to carry out this work was provided by a Dr. Moreau...........
  • "The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that. This is an important first step."

    If they are already growing human organs, how much farther do they have to go before they are transplantable?

    • Having an organ grow in a pig can result in many environmental differences in how the organ turns out. E.g. a pig is smaller and may not "exercise" the heart enough to make it useable in humans. There is also the issue of removing all the pig from the organ for a clean transplant.

  • ...I thought we Americans were already doing that with the "science" of HAES.
  • When do we get Spider Pig?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You mean like Peter Porker, the Amazing Spider-Ham?

    • Spider pig, spider pig. Does whatever a spider pig does...
  • Why in god's name would I want a Pig's body with a Human brain?
    Instead, let me raise a Human body (Female for me please) with the brain of, say, a Bonobo monkey.

  • by Chalnoth ( 1334923 ) on Thursday January 26, 2017 @08:06PM (#53745783)

    There are many animals that are quite intelligent, but it's exceedingly unlikely that we would ever have the capability to genetically engineer an animal like a pig to have a human-like brain, even if we wanted to.

    The reason is simple: our brains are way bigger than pig brains (human brain: about 3.5lbs, pig brain: 0.4lbs). In order to have a pig with a human-like brain, you'd have to completely reshape it's skull, and because a pig skull is very different from an ape skull, you'd have to do it in a very different way than humans do. To do this, you'd need to generate a wide variety of novel adaptations to make it so that a pig can support a brain that's about 8 times the size. That's just not happening.

    What is being done in these kinds of experiments is far less ambitious: to use small amounts of human DNA to make animal tissues compatible for transplantation. This kind of research has gone on for a long time: it's common to genetically engineer mice and rats to have human immune systems, to make them better test subjects. In this case, if the research continues, you'll have a pig growing a pig liver, with some of its genetic markers changed just enough to fool a human body into thinking that it's a human liver rather than a pig liver.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fortunately, the goal is to create a human with a pig's brain. That way we can harvest its delicious blood and organs while only be technically be killing a pig (which we do *quite* a lot of anyway).

      • by PJ6 ( 1151747 )

        Fortunately, the goal is to create a human with a pig's brain. That way we can harvest its delicious blood and organs while only be technically be killing a pig (which we do *quite* a lot of anyway).

        That's already happened.

        The big surprise to the scientific community was that they can vote.

  • I wonder what it tastes like?
    Humans taste like pork...

  • The work inevitably raises the spectre of intelligent animals with humanised brains .. Excellent! - Scifi becoming fact, yet again... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • http://www.livescience.com/576... [livescience.com] describes growing a mouse pancreas in a rat for diabetes research. There are many good applications of this type of research but I can also see it going very wrong.
  • The best panties in the whole world.

  • Since they are modified by pigs each year, will this have an effect on cold viruses?? (Most things are not as simple as they first appear.)
  • For some bbq baby-back ribs?

  • We've been creating mice with human immune systems for probably decades now. Heck, you can even order them from commercial suppliers:

    https://www.jax.org/jax-mice-a... [jax.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    New breed of muslims.

  • Well, it smelled and acted like a pig-man hybrid anyway
  • The scourges passed the world shrinks,
    For a long time peace and populated lands:
    One will travel safely by air, land, sea and wave,
    Then the wars stirred up anew. (C I â" 63)
    They will think they have seen the Sun at night
    When they will see the pig half-man:
    Noise, song, battle, fighting in the sky perceived,
    And one will hear brute beasts talking. (C I â" 64)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think Rosie O'Donnel's parents created the first Human-Pig hybrid...

  • and what science has done with bacon.
  • "The work inevitably raises the spectre of intelligent animals" -- what 'spectre'? Creating a new species with human-level intelligence would be the greatest feat mankind has ever accomplished, bar none. It's a big deal, sure, and as such could go super-wrong, but it doesn't have to. If it went right, we could have a real-world Redwall Abbey, with Jacques-esque Moles! That said, the "...with humanised brains" part is a bit disturbing, depending on how much human gets into the new species; we're not exac
  • We humans are generally too not ready for this hi-tech stuff.

    Consider this example: Africanized bees. Theye were inadvertently released into the wild and now have taken lives here in the USA.
    Those bees continue to migrate further north and pose a threat to an ever increasing population.

    Add to this one example the fact that an obvious unqualified Trump made it to being a presidential candidate (let alone actually now in office), and it is quite evident that we humans are akin to an ape with a machine gu
  • Pigs and such are tortured in modern slughterhouses, now we'll allow it for human hybrids? And just how human are they? What if today's ag gag bills are used against these hybrids, to prolong their suffering. But also scary is how glib people are here about it. Man bear pig? Seriously? That bit was dumb anyhow, AGW trash.

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