Laboratories can create many different chimeras. Though, they can be quite useful. They are a part of a research that should eventually lead to growing replacement organs for humans inside of animals.
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It seems that if we created a new TV show called “What will be born in China next?” it could be quite successful. The answer today is – two cute Pigmonkeys – chimeras between a pig and a monkey (more specifically the Crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis). The pigmonkeys look just like a cute little piglet but part of their cells come from a macaque. This is the first time when such chimeras appeared. But sadly, they are already dead – they died within a week.
As the research lead, Tang Hai says the final goal should be growing human organs that could be used for transplants inside of animals. But we still have a long road ahead of us because making chimeras is not really easy. The team genetically modified the cells of the macaque to create the favorite fluorescent protein GFP. This protein allowed the scientists to observe the macaque cells and inside the bodies of the chimeras. They took stem cells out of modified macaque embryos and injected them into pig embryos five days after fertilization.
Creating chimeras is not easy. The Chinese researchers originally implanted more than four thousand embryos into sows. But only ten piglets were born and only two of them were chimeras. And the chimeras did not live for long. In the end, it showed that the macaque cells penetrated many bodily tissues – including the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and skin. But they were there only very sparse – about one cell to a thousand or ten thousand.
At the moment we are sure why exactly the chimeric piglets died. Truthfully, all ten piglets born in the experiment died – even those who were not chimeras so it seems likely there is some problem in the artificial fertilization process.
Hai and his colleagues are now working hard on creating healthy and hopefully longer living chimeras that will have a higher macaque cell count throughout their tissues. If they succeed they will continue by trying to create piglets that will have a whole organ made from macaque cells. And maybe, later on, we could move on to human cells and in the end – create replacement organs for people in need.
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