Researchers on Saturday announced they had grown sheep embryos containing human cells, an advance that opens the door for growing transplant organs inside animals and offers the possibility of genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the person receiving them, The Guardian reports.
“Even today the best matched organs, except if they come from identical twins, don’t last very long because with time the immune system continuously is attacking them,” Dr. Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist at the University of California, Davis, said during the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Austin, Texas.
The team at Stanford University grew embryos containing one human cell for every 10,000 sheep cells, and kept the surrogate animal carrying them alive for three weeks. They now plan to implant human stem cells into sheep embryos that have been genetically modified to not develop a pancreas in hopes that the human cells introduced will grow to replace the missing organ.
“We have already generated a mouse pancreas in rats and then transplanted those in to diabetic mouse and were able to show almost a complete cure,” project leader Dr. Hiro Nakauchi, a professor of genetics at Stanford, told the AAAS according to the Daily Mail.
“It could take five years or it could take 10 years but I think eventually we will be able to do this,” he added.