American scientists have produced cells “ chimeras ” using human stem cells – but critics say that the work “ poses ethical challenges ”
Scientists have grown human cells in monkey embryos in an effort to better understand how cells develop and communicate with each other
Researchers at the Salk Institute in California have produced so-called monkey-human chimeras, with human stem cells – special cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types – inserted into macaque embryos in petri dishes in the laboratory
However, some British ethicists have expressed concerns, claiming that this type of work “poses significant ethical and legal challenges” and “opens Pandora's box to human-non-human chimeras”
They call for a public debate on the ethical and regulatory challenges associated with human-animal chimeras
In humans, chimerism can occur naturally following organ transplants, where the cells of this organ start to grow in other parts of the body
The scientists, led by Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, say their work could pave the way for tackling the severe shortage of transplantable organs and help better understand early human development, disease progression and aging.
Professor Izpisua Belmonte said: “These chimerical approaches could be really very useful in advancing biomedical research not only at the very beginning of life., but also at the last stage of life.”
In 2017, Professor Izpisua Belmonte and his team created the first human-pig hybrid, in which they incorporated human cells into porcine tissue at an early stage, but discovered that human cells in this environment had poor molecular communication.
The team therefore decided to study chimeras grown in the laboratory using a closer species. – the macaques
According to scientists, the results, published in the journal Cell, have shown that human stem cells “survived and integrated with better relative efficiency than in previous experiments on porcine tissue”
The team said a better understanding of how cells from different species communicate with each other could provide a “unprecedented insight into the early stages of human development” and offer scientists a “powerful tool” for regenerative medicine research
Professor Izpisua Belmonte maintains that their work followed current ethical and legal guidelines, adding: “As important to health and research as we believe these findings are, the way we carried out this work, with the utmost attention, close coordination with regulatory agencies is equally important
Commenting on the research, Dr Anna Smajdor, Lecturer and Researcher in Biomedical Ethics at Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, said: “This breakthrough reinforces an increasingly essential fact: biological categories are not fixed – they are fluid.
She added: “Scientists behind this research say these chimeric embryos offer new opportunities, car” we are unable to conduct certain types of human experiments “
Professor Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics and co-director of the Wellcome Center for Ethics and Humanities at the University of Oxford, said: «This research opens Pandora's box to human and non-human chimeras.
“These embryos were destroyed at 20 development days, but it is only a matter of time before human-non-human chimeras are successfully developed, possibly as a source of organs for humans This is one of the long-term goals of this research
“The key ethical question is:: what is the moral status of these new creatures? Before performing experiments on living chimeras or their extracted organs, it is essential that their mental capacities and life are properly assessed”
Sarah Norcross, directrice du Progress Educational Trust, stated that if “substantial progress” are carried out in research on embryos and stem cells, which could bring equally substantial benefits, “there is a clear need for a public debate and debate on the ethical and regulatory challenges raised “
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News – GB – Human-monkey embryo created to learn how cells communicate