While some scientists are looking to grow human organs in labs
to make up for the lack of donated organs, Japan is looking in a different direction – growing organs inside animals.
The idea has faced opposition in other countries, but has wide appeal in Japan where a panel of scientists and legal experts are drawing up recommendations for new government guidelines, The Daily Telegraph reports
Researchers plan to implant a human stem cell into an animal's womb, which would create a "chimeric embryo" that would then be grown into a human organ. A pig would most likely be the host animal.
When the organ is ready for transplant, the animal would be slaughtered and the organ retrieved for the human patient.
"This recommendation is a very important step forward and one that has taken us three years to achieve," Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, of the University of Tokyo, told The Telegraph.
Nakauchi and his team have injected human stem cells into mice, and he says the same can be done with pigs once the guidelines are approved. Current rules allow only for chimeric embryos to be created in a lab for a maximum of 14 days.
The process of creating the new guidelines is expected to take 12 months, and after that Nakauchi expects a pig will be carrying a human organ "quite quickly, because the technique has been established already."
The first organ grown is expected to be a pancreas since they are somewhat easy to produce. Kidneys are hearts are more difficult, but Nakauchi expects them eventually to be produced as well.
Popular Science reports
, however, that Nakauchi may not be willing to wait a year to begin his research, and could come to The United States, where no federal law prohibits such research, though some state laws do.
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