Two monkey-pig hybrids bred by scientists could lead to researchers growing human transplant organs in animals.
Although the piglets appear relatively normal in pictures, their DNA contains cells from cynomolgus monkeys.
DNA from the macaque monkeys was found in the piglets’ heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin.
The duo, which were engineered in a Chinese laboratory, died one week after being born, according to the New Scientist.
While it is unknown why the piglets died, scientists believe it may have something to do with the IVF process, as IVF does not work as well in pigs as it does humans and other animals.
Tang Hai, with the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing, told New Scientist the piglets were the first reported case of full-term pig-monkey chimeras.
Animals with cells from different species are called chimeras.
The scientists genetically modified the monkey cells to allow them to produce a protein called GFP, which enabled the researchers to track the cells.
Of the 4000 sowed embryos, ten piglets were born - two of which were classified as chimeras.
The goal of the research is to create healthy animals with a high proportion of monkey cells, Mr Hai told the publication.
If the scientists achieve this, the next step would be creating a pig with one organ entirely made up of primate cells.
In 2017, a group of scientists in the US managed to grow human cells inside pig embryos.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said although growing human organs inside pigs was “far away”, the research was just an “early step towards the goal”.
Larger animals like pigs could be used to make human-sized organs, helping to ease the shortage of human donors for transplants.
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