From the “What could possibly go wrong?”, “Haven’t we heard this one before?” and “Isn’t this ironic?” files comes news that Israeli scientists are working on yet another attempt to create a pig-human hybrid under the guise of developing an abundant source of organs for human transplanting without the need for human donors. Do you see why this is in three files? Does it belong in any more?
“We sought to produce an alternative lining that does not cause organ rejection. Instead of destroying the whole organ, we targeted only a part of it – the most important one. I removed the inner layer of the pig’s blood vessels and replaced it with a human one, thus generating a hybrid organ, taken from the pig, but with human blood vessels. In this way, we were able to overcome the barrier between the organs of the pig and those of humans”.
In adevarul.ro, Dr. Shahar Cohen explains how he and his team at Israel’s Beilinson Hospital overcame a major barrier to transplanting pig organs in humans – rejection by the human body’s immune system. As he details in the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, Cohen and his team instead created a pig-human hybrid or by replacing the pig blood vessels with human ones – a process called “vascular decellularization” — thus tricking the immune system. The cells to create the blood vessels came from human placentas, which in a sense do the same thing to trick the womb into not rejecting the fetus.
“Vascular decellularization was achieved ex vivo, under controlled machine perfusion conditions, in various rat and porcine organs, including the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, aorta, hind limbs, and pancreas. In addition, vascular decellularization of selected organs was performed in situ, within the donor body, achieving better control over the perfusion process”.
While the initial replacement of blood vessels occurred outside of the body, some were done inside the donor before removing the organ. The tests were performed on both pigs and rats, and the organs hybridized included kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, pancreas, isolated blood vessels and even limbs. All of that sounds promising to those awaiting an organ transplant, which is Cohen’s target ‘market’.
“We aim to eliminate waiting lists and have unlimited reserves of organs available for transplant, and create a future with fewer anti-rejection drugs and thus have fewer side effects and fewer problems related to immune suppression. We know the steps to reach such a milestone. I think we can fulfill that vision”.
The team has not yet transplanted hybrid organs between animal species, but plans to do this soon. Pig-to-human transplanting of pig-human hybrid organs is now on schedule within five years. Ethics aside, the major concern of those opposed to hybridization is that the cells of the animal donor in the hybrid organ somehow get detached from the organ and move to the brain, giving the human a partial pig brain –or a pig a partial human one?
What could possibly go wrong? It’s too bad George Orwell isn’t around to collect royalties.