In a groundbreaking scientific achievement, researchers have successfully cultivated a kidney with predominantly human cells inside a pig. This marks the first successful attempt at growing a human organ within another species.
Published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the study reveals the creation of human-pig chimeric embryos. These embryos, consisting of both human and pig cells, were implanted in surrogate pigs. After 28 days, the kidneys primarily composed of human cells were fully formed, with human cells making up 60 to 70% of the total cells.
Senior researcher, Liangxue Lai from the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, highlighted that while rat and mouse organs have previously been cultivated within each other, human organs inside pigs remained elusive until now. Pigs present an ideal environment due to their physiological and anatomical resemblance to humans.
Considering the dire need for organ transplants globally, this achievement holds significance. As reported by the US Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, about 88,500 individuals are on the transplant waiting list in the US alone.
Miguel Esteban, a primary contributor to the study, shared, “We modified both the pig and the human cells to ensure the growth of the human cells in a non-native environment.” Their approach showcases potential in producing functional human kidneys in pigs, offering an alternative to organ transplantation shortages.
However, the journey is not without challenges. The study notes a high rate of deteriorating pig embryos. Ethical concerns arise when considering the potential brain and germ cell development within these chimeras. Additionally, the presence of multiple cell types, some from the pig, in these organs could lead to transplant rejection issues.
Past experiments failed as pig cells typically overshadowed human cells. But in this study, the embryo was genetically tailored to create a space exclusively for human embryonic stem cells.
Concluding their findings, the team believes this achievement demonstrates the possibility of producing human-centric organs in pigs, marking a thrilling juncture in the realms of regenerative medicine and human organ development research.