While still early days, the experiment might one day lead to lab-grown human organs that can be transplanted into those who need them, potentially saving thousands of lives.In the experiment, researchers in the US injected human stem cells into early-stage pig embryos. These hybrid embryos were then transferred into surrogate sows and allowed to develop until the first trimester.
More than 150 of the embryos developed into chimeras, which meant that they had developed the precursors of organs including the heart and liver, but they contained a small amount of human cells - around one in 10,000 of the hybrids' cells were human.
This is a proof-of-concept experiment showing that human-pig hybrids are possible. The ultimate goal is to find a way to use these lab-grown human parts for transplants.
"Our findings may offer hope for advancing science and medicine by providing an unprecedented ability to study early embryo development and organ formation, as well as a potential new avenue for medical therapies," said team member Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, from the Salk Institute in California.
"We have shown that a precisely targeted technology can allow an organism from one species to produce a specific organ composed of cells from another species."-read more