Allow Human Organs Grown in Animals?

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.

Well, that certainly presents a host of ethical issues, doesn’t it? I can think of four off the top of my head: First, there is the question of what kind of stem cell. Second, the issue becomes whether creating an animal that has a human organ is ethical from the human exceptionalism angle. Third, some will object creating animals for the purpose of slaughtering them for human organ harvesting. And finally, there are significant safety concerns, e.g., whether the patient or society could be put at potential risk via a porcine virus crossing species barrier through the transplanted 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.

Again, this is a first impression. I would be interested in reader comments.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More