According to a report published by Kyodo News use of human cells for growing pancreases in pigs for transplantation is being planned by scientists at the University of Tokyo.
According to Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, cited in the Kyodo News report as saying, they expect to launch a first project in Japan aimed for growing human organs in animals within a year or so.
To reproduce pancreases in the research, human introduced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) is planned to be used by Nakauchi’s team.
iPS cells can develop into any kind of cells just like embryonic stem cells. Additionally, there is no need for the embryos and can thus avoid transplant rejection problems because they can be generated directly from adult cells.
A genetically modified pig embryo which would not have the capacity to develop a pancreas, would be injected with the human iPS cells, by the research team, according to Kyodo News report. The embryo will then be placed in a surrogate sow’s womb. The researchers would then remove the fetus before delivery and examine the extent to which pancreas tissue has been created from the human iPS cells and how well it functions.
The team hopes the genetically engineered pancreases could be used to treat patients with serious diabetes in 10 years.
The controversial research process involving implanting animals with human stem cells was given the green light by Japan’s Ministry of Education and Science on March 1. A successful completion of the research can eventually result in the growing of human organs inside animal hosts which can later be used for transplantation.
A ministry official told news agency AFP that it is now possible for Japanese researchers to apply for permits to enable them to carry out studies by making use of the this technique because of the decision of the Japanese authorities to revise its guidelines
However the Kyodo News report also said that there is still a prohibition by the Japanese government on researchers and scientists conducting experiments where in fertilized animal eggs containing human cells are needed to be placed in human wombs. There is also prohibition on the use of animals produced through such genetic engineering for breeding.
The issue of the status of animals containing human cells has raised a number of ethical questions and dilemmas. However, there is greater demand to find out a quicker and better solution to the dilemma by researchers because of a supply shortage of donated organs calls.
(Adapted from Xinhuanet.com)