A Chinese lab has successfully produced the first-ever pig-monkey hybrid. New Scientists reports how these piglets were born carrying cells from monkeys.
A researcher from the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology, Tang Hai mentions how this is the first birth of the full-term pig-monkey chimeras. Hai is also one of the authors of a research paper about this hybrid birth.
The ultimate goal behind this experiment is growing human organs inside animals. But that won’t be happening any time soon. While the birth was a success, these pig-monkey hybrids did not survive for long. Within 7 days of their birth, they passed away. The exact reason for their death is still not known.
So how was this feat achieved? Hai and the rest of the team grew a monkey-cell culture. They derived embryonic stem cells from the culture and then they were injected into fertilized pig embryos. The embryos were 4 days old when this process was done.
After implanting over 4000 embryos, the scientists managed to get 10 piglets. But even among those ten, only 2 turned out to be the pig-monkey hybrid chimeras. The flaws were apparent since even those 2 hybrids did not survive for long.
According to Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist from the University of California, this whole experiment as rather discouraging. The low efficiency of the chimeras and then all of them dying in such a short period makes Knoepfler think about all the more research and experimentation they still have to do.
The cells from the monkeys in the pig-monkey hybrids were spread throughout their vital organs. But the overall count was very low. The cells only numbered between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000.
IMAGE CREDIT: Branislav Nenin