Humanized Pigs

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper recently “celebrated” the alleged discovery of a scientific process to create a “humanized pig” more susceptible to severe Chinese coronavirus cases, which scientists could infect and use for research.  Turns out those pigs, as God designed, are not susceptible to COVID.  Who knew?

A study on humanized pigs published in Cell Discovery, in August lamented that naturally occurring forms of mammals similar to humans had yet to be found to experience severe coronavirus symptoms. In order to create a pig more vulnerable to severe disease, Chinese scientists claimed to have modified pigs in utero using CRISPR/Cas9 technology to give it the ACE2 receptor, a type of protein that coronavirus uses to bind onto cells and cause damage.  The end goal of this experiment is to birth pigs, inject them with coronavirus and study advanced degeneration of their health.

Of course, it doesn’t seem to be a problem to these scientists that severe cases of coronavirus infection can cause extremely painful symptoms like multiple organ failure, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, and other life-threatening conditions, according to the World Health Organization.

During early fetal development, immune cells develop within the liver, providing an opportunity to introduce human cells from aborted babies using ultrasound imaging as a guide.  As the pig fetus develops, the injected human immune stem cells begin to change into other kinds of cells and spread through the pig’s body. Once piglets are born, it is easy to detect human immune cells in their blood, liver, spleen and thymus gland. This humanization is what makes them so valuable for testing new medical treatments.

The experiment is far from the first on pigs as vessels for human diseases. As early as 2014, researchers were attempting to genetically modify pigs to create within them organs that can function in the human body, potentially eliminating the need for human organ donors.  

China isn’t the only country humanizing pigs. The same is happening here at Pig Improvement Company in Tennessee, according to the MIT Technology Review. The headline from the article: “Gene editing has made pigs immune to a deadly epidemic: A large project is underway to disease-proof pigs using CRISPR to change their DNA. Are people Next?” That is probably already in the works.

Researchers at Iowa State University have successfully transferred components of the human immune system into pigs that lack a functional immune system to accelerate medical research in virus and vaccine research as well as cancer and stem cell therapeutics.

And these are not the only controversial experiments using ‘humanized’ animal models. According to The Japan Times, in 2014, genetically modified organs began to be developed to be compatible with human genetics for use in transplantations.  In order for the recipient to avoid tissue rejection, the transplanted organ must contain at least 90% human cells, making it necessary to generate a human organ with a human vascular system, according to an analysis article, Ethical Rejections of Xenotransplantation, published in 2018. 

Ethics is not routinely taught to science students except in medicine. Perhaps it’s time for ethics and science to shake hands.

Science is important, but so is ethics, so is balancing life. To destroy life to save life – it’s one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face.   George W. Bush

Source:  Mad Science: ‘Scientists’ working on creating humanized pigs to alter our genes by Seth Hancock, Liberty Loft; We’re creating ‘humanized pigs’ in our ultraclean lab to study human illnesses and treatments, The Conversation; Aborted Baby Organs Used to Humanize Mice for COVID-19 Vaccine and Therapeutic Testing by Julie Collorafi, Fetal Industry

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