“This is one of the major problems in medicine — organ transplantation,” Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences and a co-author of the study shared in the journal Cell. The findings were reported by NPR in a piece published Thursday.
“The demand for that is much higher than the supply,” he added.
The team of scientist injected 25 cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells from humans into macaque monkey embryos, the outlet noted. After just one day, researchers reported being able to detect human cells growing in 132 of the embryos and could study them for up to 19 days.
“I don’t see this type of research being ethically problematic,” Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and Harvard University added. “It’s aimed at lofty humanitarian goals.”
But the research is raising a whole host of questions as to whether this should be done.
“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University’s Baker Institute said. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”
“Should it be regulated as human because it has a significant proportion of human cells in it?” she added. “Or should it be regulated just as an animal? Or something else? At what point are you taking something and using it for organs when it actually is starting to think and have logic?”
“Nobody really wants monkeys walking around with human eggs and human sperm inside them,” Hank Greely, a Stanford University bioethicist who co-wrote an article in the same issue of the journal that critiques the line of research explained. “Because if a monkey with human sperm meets a monkey with human eggs, nobody wants a human embryo inside a monkey’s uterus.”
“I don’t think we’re on the edge of beyond the Planet of the Apes,” he added. “I think rogue scientists are few and far between. But they’re not zero. So I do think it’s an appropriate time for us to start thinking about, ‘Should we ever let these go beyond a petri dish?’”