In the world of science and technology, numerous breakthroughs are realized every single year. Some of these developments are a bit more controversial than others. The recent breakthrough in terms of creating sheep-human hybrids is both exciting and somewhat troublesome. Rest assured no physical “sheeple” will show up in the streets anytime soon.
A Different Kind of Human-Animal Hybrid
Leave it up to the movie and book industry to come up with worrisome scenarios where human-animal hybrids are concerned. Most of those ideas are sheer fiction and will never be realized in the real world. Scientists in the US have successfully created a sort of human-sheep hybrid, although it is not necessarily for the purpose most people would assume at first. These hybrid embryos will help pave the way for a better organ donation “industry” in the future.
To put this in perspective, the main objective of this research is to grow body parts inside engineered animals. Creating an interspecies breed is not something that can be done overnight, even with current technology. By introducing human stem cells into sheep embryos, a “viable” hybrid creature has been created. It still maintains 99% of the sheep’s look and DNA, yet it also contains some human material.
It is also important to note these embryos have been destroyed after their 28-day life cycle. The research is mainly focused on determining whether or not these hybrids can be created, and if so, how they will be used in the future. Organ donation, while an extremely important industry, has noted a severe shortage of organs on more occasions than ever before. Addressing that problem in a viable manner will require some unorthodox methods first and foremost.
During the initial stages of this research, scientists are keeping the contribution of human cells to a bare minimum. It is also not the first time a human-animal hybrid is created for such a specific purpose. A while ago, the same group of scientists successfully inserted human cells inside pig embryos in a controlled lab environment. It is a bit unclear if either of these hybrid approaches will be pursued further now that the initial tests have been relatively successful.
There is a lot of merit when it comes to producing human organs through interspecies embryos. It can help address supply shortages where organs are concerned. Additionally, it is also something that can – in theory – be done on demand, which can revitalize the organ donation industry as a whole. A lot of unknown factors remain in place despite these successful trials. For example, it is unclear how many human cells need to be present within the organs to ensure a transplant can be successful.
This latter part will undoubtedly spark some heated debates over the coming years. If the human ratio in these hybrid embryos is increased in the future, there will be a lot more backlash over what scientists are effectively trying to achieve. Ethical questions will be raised regardless of how this process evolves, yet one cannot deny the potential positive consequences of exploring options like these. Every approach to address organ donations will be controversial in its own way, which is only to be expected.