Reports have come out that Chinese scientists have bred monkey-pig hybrids as part of research into the growth of human organs for transplantation in animals.

Although the two chimera piglets died within a week of being born, both were found to have DNA from macaque monkeys in their heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin.

They were bred from more than 4,000 embryos which were implanted into a sow using IVF, according to the New Scientist.

A team from the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing genetically modified monkey cells to produce a fluorescent protein allowing the researchers to track the cells and descendant cells.

However, this experimentation has many complex issues, including failures.

Ten piglets were born as a result, of which two were chimeras. All died within a week. In the chimeric piglets, multiple tissues – including in the heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin – partly consisted of monkey cells, but the proportion was low: between one in 1000 and one in 10,000.

It is unclear why the piglets died, says Hai, but because the non-chimeric pigs died as well, the team suspects it is to do with the IVF process rather than the chimerism. IVF doesn’t work nearly as well in pigs as it does in humans and some other animals.

The team is now trying to create healthy animals with a higher proportion of monkey cells, says Hai. If that is successful, the next step would be to try to create pigs in which one organ is composed almost entirely of primate cells.

Previously, human cells were introduced into pig embryos.

…Back in 2017, another research team in California successfully created pig-human chimeras, but just about one in every 100,000 cells was human. And, for ethical reasons, the embryos only developed for one month because there was concern that the brains could be part-human.

And then there are the critics. Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist at the University of California, Davis, believes it’s impossible to grow human organs suitable for transplant in human-animal chimeras.

“Given the extremely low chimeric efficiency and the deaths of all the animals, I actually see this as fairly discouraging,” Knoepfler said.

The goal of the research is to ultimately create human organs in pigs, which can then be harvested without the pesky human rights abuse charges that are currently plaguing the Chinese. Forbes contributor Zak Doffman and geopolitical/surveillance expert prepared a disturbing report last month.

The China Tribunal used first-hand testimony from former detainees and implausible transplant availability and short waiting times to shape its findings. The witness reports were horrific—including organ extractions on live victims, subsequently killed by the procedures. A 2015 documentary claimed China’s illegal organ transplant industry is worth $1 billion each year—but China insists that forced extractions have stopped, that its efforts to reform date back to 2010, with a system of voluntary donations replacing forced organ harvesting from prisoners.

Perhaps instead of this line of research, involving sophisticated and intelligent species, the Chinese would be better served by focusing on African Swine Fever research. Though, there is good news for Asian pig farms: The epidemic crisis seems to be decreasing.

The number of breeding pigs in China picked up slightly in October compared to the month before, according to data released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs last week. It was the first increase since April 2018, a few months before African swine fever began ravaging farms across the country.

The illness not only killed pigs, but also made farmers reluctant to restock pigs after they were slaughtered out of fear they would catch the disease. That caused the total pig population to shrink by around 130 million, or more than 40%, as of September, according to a CNN Business analysis of official data.

The latest data on breeding pigs indicates that the problem has “basically reached a bottom,” the agricultural ministry said during a press conference last week. That’s because it shows that farmers are now more willing to raise pigs.

 

 
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