Japan’s government approved a request by scientists to conduct stem-cell experiments to create an animal-human hybrid and allow it to be brought to term.
Japan’s science ministry last week gave provisional approval to a proposal from researchers at the University of Tokyo to create animal embryos that contain human cells and transplant them into surrogate animals, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.
The study would create a human pancreas in rodents using human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These are cells that have been reprogrammed back into an embryo-like state and can be used to create virtually any other type of cell.
Final approval from the ministry is expected next month, according to the British scientific journal Nature.
According to Asahi, researchers will take fertilized eggs from rodents that have been gene-edited to remove the ability to produce a pancreas themselves. To this, they will add human iPS cells to create hybrid animal-human embryos.
These in turn would be implanted into a host animal, in this case a rat or mouse, and allowed to grow.
According to researchers, the goal of the experiment is to create organs viable for transplant into humans.
“Finally, we are in a position to start serious studies in this field after 10 years of preparation,” said Hiromitsu Nakauchi, a researcher at the Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo, according to Asahi.
“We don’t expect to create human organs immediately, but this allows us to advance our research based upon the know-how we have gained up to this point.”