by Jennie Pugliese, Sustainable Plant Systems major
If you were in need of an organ transplant, would you accept one grown inside a pig? This may seem absurd now but the US may not be far off from this reality. One of Japan’s top scientists, Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, has spent years perfecting the art of adjoining two genetically different creatures, cleverly called chimeras, and is now on his way to California.
This may seem like a bit of science fiction, however Professor Nakauchi has successfully created a mouse with a rat pancreas as recently as 2010. His method involves inserting stem cells into a genetically modified embryo then implanting this into a surrogate, such as a pig. The embryo thus develops with the body of the embryo donor and the organs of the stem cell donor.
Obviously this raises many ethical questions and concerns. While a never-ending supply of human organs could be beneficial to those in need, are we willing to accept the image of an industry full of pigs containing human organs like something out a George Orwell novel? If there is such resistance to genetically engineered foods how could our society ever accept the idea of genetically engineered organs? This is surely not a debate or question to be settled anytime soon.
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597) and is a repost from August 14, 2014. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.