Is it Ethical to Grow Organs Inside of Animals?

The advancement of biotechnology has always been a moral battleground because it goes hand in hand with the cruel practices of animal testing. For scientists to develop theories and proven techniques in this field of work they raise, torture and kill millions of animals each year. The end goal of animal testing is to try to prove whether a substance or procedure is suitable for humans, and now biotechnology has its sights set on engineering human organs in host animals.

The Underlying Concept of Growing Human Organs in Other Animals

A team of Japanese scientists led by Professor Hiro Nakauchi are currently working on a project which will enable them to grow human organs inside other animals in just a few years.

Employing embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) scientists have already successfully grown rat organs in white mice, and the pancreas from a black pig in the body of a white pig. The next step, says Professor Nakauchi who is the lead scientist on this project, is to be able to grow human organs such as livers, kidneys, pancreases, and even hearts, in living pigs.

Clearly, we are now at a stage in scientific development where we are able to alter the fundamental building blocks of life and even blur the lines between species. Scientists dream of a world where we can take cells from a human and grow specific body parts in an animal host so that they are perfectly matched to the humanís body, but this is a subject matter which needs some serious attention and thought.

The Ethical Questions of Using Animals to Grow New Human Organs

Society has to address the issue of whether they are ready to face the ethical implications of pig farms which exist specifically to raise cross species animals which are part human at a cellular level. The vast majority of people ignore the plight of pigs raised in factory farms for food, but will they be so accepting when these animals are being raised for human transplant? Will there be a direct correlation between the unease of the public and the level of humanity in the pigs?

There is no doubting that once the technology has been developed and successful human transplants have taken place, demand will be huge. In the US alone 18 people die while waiting for an organ transplant every day, and itís easy to see how this technology could provide an answer. The question is, should countless numbers of animals be raised, tested on, manipulated and then killed in order for humans to be able to host spare organs in their bodies?

The legality of this type of research is already an issue for scientists. Itís illegal to make human-animal hybrids in Japan, meaning that if Professor Nakauchi is unable to overturn the law, he is looking at the US as a potential location to further his research. We should be raising the issue now of whether it is legal in the US to create animals for hosting human organs and opening the subject up for debate before it is too late.

Where Will it End?

If the vision of the biotechnology scientists is realized, we will soon be living in a world where the words “factory farm” not only apply to food production but also to organ donor programs. Pigs are selected for this research as they are known to share very similar genealogy and physical makeup, but what the scientists neglect to mention is their similar capacity for intelligence and suffering.

This is a new evolution in speciesism and we are heading towards a world where we farm genetically engineered animals in order to try and regenerate our own bodies. How many animals will suffer and die in the name of scientific progress, and will be be better off for it in the end?

Photo Credit: sgs_1019


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Nimue Pendragon

Japan. Figures. I do have a problem with this. Grow them inside humans. Animals are not here to be used and abused by humans.

Christine Jones
Christine J2 years ago

Urgh. Sickening. If more people would agree to be organ donors the problem would be solved.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

Clara H. There are millions of humans who are beneath microbes in ethics, intelligence, evolution, and value to the earth. Yes one pig is superior and more worth saving than those millions of subhuman things.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

Warren B. After thinking about it, if a cow needed an organ grown in you to survive, I wouldn't hesitate to do so. I'm sure you also want to bring back Dr. Mengele, so why don't you resurrect him from his grave by donating all your organs to his corpse?

Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z3 years ago

It sounds like more animal exploitation to me.

Warren Biggs
Warren Biggs3 years ago

While I agree with some of the comments, I wonder how the vehement people would respond if only an animal-grown organ could save them. So what say you? Are you ready to give up your life for the life of the pig? Think long and hard. How would it affect your decision if you had children? Which would be more ethical- depriving children of a parent or saving the life of a pig? Which would you choose- saving your child or saving a pig? Not so black and white is it now? People need to think before having knee-jerk reactions. Many ethical issues are only black and white to the simple-minded. There are many facets to most issues- not all, but most. C'mon, people, use your freakin' brain!

Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Each species should remain intact, the way they were given into the world. Research has certainly overstepped its right to tinker ... and successfully destroy the original intent, and indeed the very survival, of many no-voice no-choice victims. Time to redistribute "research" money to more immediate needs ... like poverty, for instance.

Angev GERIDONI3 years ago

Thank you to all who love the animals and the planet, and who already signed the petition to protect horses from Pétropolis, if no, please help give an happy end to the sad story of those enslaved animals, and share these petitions :
1) Care 2

Thank you for sharing

Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thanks for sharing