If You Needed an Organ Transplant, Would You Want One That Was Grown Inside of a Pig?

New advances in medicine mean that Japanese scientists could soon be able to grow human organs inside of pigs. The whole process can take no time, either; we’re talking about less than a year. Strict Japanese laws mean that scientists are traveling abroad to create a pig that is a pig, by all accounts, with human cells and organs — a type of pig-human hybrid. In fact, one of the pioneering Japanese scientists has recently been “lured” to Stanford University to continue his research.

If growing organs inside pigs wasn’t cutting-edge enough, Japanese scientists are also developing ways to recreate the exact human organ that a human in need of an organ transplant needs. The organ would be an exact genetic match, and it would grow inside a pig embryo. Organ donor waiting lists and issues around the body rejecting an organ would be things of the past.

These medical advances are approaching quickly, so, probably sooner than later, Care2 members, you are going to have figure out how this idea will sit with you — pigs crammed in crates that are part human (well, human on cellular level).

One Pig With the Genetics of Two Species

As reported in BBC, a Japanese professor, Professor Nagashima already pulled out the uterus of one female pig and inserted 40 not entirely pig embryos. The special embryos that Professor Nagashima inserted were chimeric. Chimeric is a fancy way of saying that the embryos “carry genetic material from two different species.” Professor Nagashima didn’t stop with embryos; over in another shed, there are chimeric pigs that are already grown.

Another Japanese professor, Professor Nakauchi’s goal doesn’t begin and end with growing human organs inside pigs, either. As reported in BBC, Professor Nakauchi wants to “take skin cells from a human adult and change them in to iPS cells. Those iPS cells can then be injected into a pig embryo.”

Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, were first discovered in 2006. The iPS cells share many qualities with embryonic stem cells. Perhaps the most desired quality of iPS cells is that “they can develop into any part of the animal’s body.”

No More Organ Donor Waiting Lists or Organ Rejection?

Patients who were told that it would be years before they could receive an organ would hardly have to wait. Donor waiting lists and issues of the body rejecting an organ would be things of the past because scientists would unlock “the ability to reproduce a human organ that is genetically identical to the person who needs it.” While growing an organ inside a pig can be done within a year, the work with iPS cells could take 5 or more years.

While Japan seems like the nucleus of this new research, much of the research is still illegal. In Japan, the government, activists and the general public don’t seem too comfortable with the idea of animal-human, especially pig-human, hybrids. Yet, researchers insist that these new breakthroughs wouldn’t be pig-human hybrids. The animal would still look like a pig and oink like a pig, but it would have some human tissues and organs.

And if the Japanese government continues to resist, then these researchers are always welcome in the big U.S. of A. As reported in Modern Farmer, more funding for his research and looser laws, especially federal laws, have “lured” Professor Nakuchi to Stanford.

As reported in Modern Farmer, Christopher Thomas Scott, PhD, Director of Stanford’s Program on Stem Cells in Society, explains: “‘So they are going to act like pigs, they are going to feel like pigs, whatever ‘pig-ness’ is. We don’t know. We are not pigs.’” The reality is that we know “people think, feel and talk,” but most Americans don’t believe pigs do.

Pigs DO Think, Feel and Talk (sort of)

It’s true. We don’t really know what ‘pig-ness’ is because we aren’t pigs. Yet, common sense observation and expert research suggest that pigs are more human-like than we like to give them credit. And, no, I’m not talking about that recent evolutionary theory claiming that human beings evolved when a chimpanzee and a pig mated – that’s behind us, right?

Here are a few quick examples:

If this new science feels like a scene out of “Brave New World” with a dash of “The Jungle,” with a possible flashback to “Lord of the Flies,” then you are not alone. It’s trippy. Yet, there’s a point that might be trippier, or even a sad irony.

A lot of organ damage is linked to poor lifestyle choices. While lifestyle means a slew of things, consuming meats, especially processed meats, and their saturated fats on a regular basis isn’t always ideal for the organs. For example, too much pork doesn’t do a liver good; consuming pork can even be worse for the liver than consuming alcohol.

Ironically, while we are slaughtering and consuming the animals that are making our organs sick, they may be the key to saving our organs and our lives. Yes, over 120,000 lives (and organs) of men, women and children will be saved, but how many pig and pig embryo lives will be lost?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

If it was humanely grown, I wouldn't have a problem.

Elizabeth Zehren
Elizabeth Z3 years ago

This is disturbing. Aren't animals exploited enough already?

Darryll Green
Darryll Green3 years ago

if they would pass a mandatory organ donation law across the world, we wouldn't have problems with people not getting organs to live, the only thing would be religious refusal and that wouldn't account for very many people as most believe in being donors, i would not accept something grown in pigs as there are to many diseases associated with pigs

Nimue P.

Leave the animals alone!!!!

Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

Even as we debate this issue. The technology is already passing this by.. Making the use of animals moot and unnecessary.

The next frontier in 3-D printing: Human organs
By Brandon Griggs, CNN
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu April 3, 2014


sharyn w.
sharyn w3 years ago

For some this would be a blessing, for some it would be okay, for some it would be a last resort to stay alive. For others like Jews, Muslims, some Christians, some Buddhists, vegetarians, vegans, and others who oppose sacrificing or using any animal for the sake of helping humans it's a NO, No, and no. Personally I would rather find another way to grow human organs other then in a animal that's not human. I did read somewhere that human organs could grow in lab without animals being used other then the human animals cells like stem cells. For those in favor of using these pigs I have no ill will especially if that's the only way they can continue to live well.

Dennis D.
Past Member 3 years ago

Nicola R.I was not justifying my eating habit. Though you may like to think being vegan is some how morally superior. News.. It isn't. There is no more danger from eating meat. than any other food. Shheessh, you vegans are certainly a prissy holier than thou bunch. I swear worse at time than a christian fundamentalist/evangelical ranting on about sin and brimstone.

There are protocols in place. Japan just has laws in place that you happen to agree with. Personally, I do not enough about the research to know whether it is really ethical or not. Just a single article. Again this is a step. As with like with stem cell research. The christian right got all bent out of shape because scientists were using fetal stem cells. In time there was found a way to use stem cell from adults. It is the same with this research in my opinion based on this single article.

Again science is not always so neat and clean. Sometimes it is messy and jarring.

Nicola Reddwoodd
Nicola Dandelion3 years ago

For Dennis D.: You don't have to justify your eating habits. Its up to you. I just inform people of the dangers of eating meat. There is tons of information and peer reviewed research papers out there on this subject. Eating meat causes organs to work way harder than normal and the liver gets totally congested and toxic. This causes organ failure eventually. Dr. Richard Schulze has fantastic information about this subject on his website. Thousands of people have healed themselves through going raw vegan.

The cruel animal testing and organ harvesting laboratories are not about the issue of cute or not. I would recommend to you to really look into it if you care. Its about ethics. As publicly stated in 2012 in Cambridge U.K., all mammals and some other groups including humans have the same consciousness and nervous system functions, they all feel joy and pain. Using animals as hosts for organs is unethical. This is not up for a debate any longer.

I am totally pro science. But science has to be conducted ethically and it has to produce ethical outcome otherwise its useless and even dangerous. Through ethical science meat is now produced using vegetarian ingredients and its already on the market. Also another big breakthrough is the production of organs through stem cells of the patient himself, you can have your own organs grown in the laboratory without a host. There are whole films about it on YouTube, people grow whole hearts which actually beat by themselves without