For the first time, a team of American and Chinese scientists created embryos made of cells from Both humans and monkeys. Scientists share their work in the scientific journal Cell. The hybrid embryos were not well received by all colleagues.
The purpose of embryos is to find a new way to develop organs for people who need a transplant. “One of the big problems in the medical world is that the demand is much greater than the supply,” says Professor Juan Carlos Ispissoa Belmonte, one of the researchers. Fellow Insoo Hyun also sees some ethical issues with hybrids, because they serve a “sublime human purpose”.
In the United States and abroad, experiments have continued for some time by injecting human voice cells into sheep and pig embryos to see if this ultimately leads to organs useful for the human future. So far without the desired outcome, Belmonte and a team of colleagues in the US and China decided to take a different approach: there are no sheep and pigs, but macaques that are genetically closer to humans. After just one day, researchers were able to detect human cells in 132 embryos. In the end, they were able to study it for 19 days.
Scientist Kerstin Matthews of Rice University’s Baker Institute is one of those colleagues who view evolution with suspicion. You say, “My first question is why?” “I think the public will be concerned, and me, that we will just continue this kind of science without having a proper discussion first about what is allowed and what is not.”
Belmonte, though, is excited to discover. According to him, the result leads to a new approach to organ transplantation. These experiments may also enable scientists to gain new insights into early human development, aging, and the underlying causes of cancer and other diseases.
Incidentally, these hybrid embryos have a name: chimera, derived from a mythical, fire-breathing creature consisting of a lion, goat, and snake. “Our goal is not to create a new organism, a monster,” Belmonte says. We simply want to understand how cells from different organisms interact with each other.