Controversial ‘chimera’ embryos have successfully been created by a team of international scientists. The embryos are part human/part monkey and developed for the purpose of producing organs for people who need transplants.
A controversy has arisen over ethical concerns following an experiment that mixed monkey and human cells in the pursuit of creating organs for transplants.
Scientists have successfully completed a pioneering and controversial experiment involving a hybrid chimeric combination of monkey and human cells, which exist together in a living embryo – something that never would have been by nature alone, Science Alert reports.
The existence of the embryos was revealed, as well as results of the experiment were published on Thursday in the journal Cell.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, co-author of the study, and a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, Calif, has previously made headlines for similar work. In 2017, a team Belmonte led created the first pig-human hybrid embryo.
Around the world, researchers have conducted experiments looking for ways to grow human organs in other animals. Experiments have been undertaken that have injected human stem cells into pig and sheep embryos.
In 2018, scientists successfully created human-sheep hybrids in sheep embryos. However, in terms of growing organs for transplant, the approach used in pigs and sheep hasn’t worked thus far.
Now the controversial and unnatural mixing of human and monkey cells has raised a variety of ethical and logical questions and concerns, NPR reported. Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University’s Baker Institute, was asked for comment after the research was revealed.
“My first question is: ‘Why?'” Matthews said. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
Several scientists defended the research against claims that it was unethical.
“This is one of the major problems in medicine [and] organ transplantation,” said Professor Belmonte. “The demand for that is much higher than the supply.”
Other scientists agree that such research is both ethical and necessary.
“I don’t see this type of research being ethically problematic,” added Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and Harvard University. “It’s aimed at lofty humanitarian goals.”
Hyun pointed out that thousands of people die every year in the United States waiting for an organ transplant.