A story in the Telegraph claims that Japanese scientists may soon grow human organs in animals–made from human stem cells–for later use in transplant surgery. I am dubious. From the story:
A panel of scientists and legal experts appointed by the government has drawn up a recommendation that will form the basis of new guidelines for Japan’s world-leading embryonic research. There is widespread support in Japan for research that has raised red flags in other countries.
Scientists plan to introduce a human stem cell into the embryo of an animal – most likely a pig – to create what is termed a “chimeric embryo” that can be implanted into an animal’s womb. That will then grow into a perfect human organ, a kidney or even a heart, as the host animal matures. When the adult creature is slaughtered, the organ will then be harvested and transplanted into a human with a malfunctioning organ.
Here are my initial thoughts–and this is very much a matter of first impression:
- If it were an adult stem cell, say a progenitor kidney stem cell, etc., that would pass muster with me.
- IF all that was created was a pig with a human kidney, that would be acceptable from the human exceptionalism angle. The pig would remain a pig in the same way as if a human organ were grafted into it and matured before slaughter.
- I would also enthusiastically accept using and killing pigs as organ farms. I don’t see the difference with eating bacon. Indeed, the justification–again, if it worked, about which I have serious doubts–would be more urgent.
- The potential devastation of an outbreak of a porcine virus for which we have no resistance could be devastating. I would want a very high level of evidence that the risk is extremely remote.