In the effort to save lives of patients in need of organ transplant, scientists are now growing human organs in animals in the U.S., particularly in sheep and pigs, at laboratories in the Salk Institute in California and the University of Minnesota.
According to Daily Mail on Monday, human-animal hybrid embryos have been implanted in over 50 sheep and pigs, with the goal of developing human major organs, including hearts and livers, that are completely functional.
The British government's animal research advisers are looking at legalizing the technique, which utilizes stem-cell biology and gene-editing, after the first complete guidelines are published this week by the Home Office's Animals in Science Committee.
Britain currently has a significant shortage on organ donors, attributed to medical advances that are saving a lot of people's lives after encountering accidents, noted Telegraph on Monday.
In 2014, the National Health Service reported 429 patients died waiting for an organ donation, while useable organs have diminished over time due to donors who are old and medically unqualified. The latest technique is expected to become a quick solution for the organ shortage problem in Britain.
"We can make an animal without a heart," said Daniel Garry, a cardiologist who leads a chimera project at the University of Minnesota. "We have engineered pigs that lack skeletal muscles and blood vessels."
However, animal rights groups do not approve of the new technique.
"Creating human-animal hybrids is bad for people and worse for animals," noted Julia Baines, of Peta U.K. "These animals have exactly the same capacity to feel pain and suffer as any other animal, including humans."
Former professor of medical genetics at the University of Cambridge Martin Bobrow pointed that the technique could result to 'medical advances of considerable importance.'
"Without someone trying these experiments, we will not know whether the risks are huge, negligible or in between," Bobrow said.