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Human-Pig Hybrids Approved In UK

Human-pig hybrid embryos have been given the go-ahead by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority; this is the first since the Commons voted in favor of this research last month.

The effort at the University of Warwick is led by Professor Justin St John. "This new license allows us to attempt to make human pig clones to produce embryonic stem cells," he said

"We will take skin cells from patients who have a mutation for certain kinds of heart disease (cardiomyopathy, which makes the heart lose its pumping strength) and put them into pig eggs after their chromosomes have been removed. We will then make embryos so that we can attempt to derive embryonic stem cells which will allow us to study some of the molecular mechanisms associated with these heart diseases.

"Ultimately they will help us to understand where some of the problems associated with these diseases arise and they could also provide models for the pharmaceutical industry to test new drugs. We will effectively be creating and studying these diseases in a dish.

"But it's important to say that we're at the very early stages of this research and it will take a considerable amount of time. There is still a great deal to learn about these techniques and much of our early work will involve understanding how we can make the hybrid cloning process as efficient as possible."

Science fiction fans may recall the hyperpigs from Alastair Reynold's 2002 book Redemption Ark:

Clavain stared. The prisoner was nothing that he had been expecting. At first glance it might have been taken for an adolescent human, for the proportions and size were roughly analogous...

Clavain was looking at a hyperpig; a genetic chimera of pig and human... Somewhere before the dawn of the Demarchist era, in the twenty-first or twenty-second century, not far from the time of Clavain's own birth, a spectrum of human genes had been spliced into those of the domestic pig. The intention had been to optimise the ease with which organs could be transplanted between the two species...
(Read more about Reynold's hyperpigs)

Via Telegraph; thanks to Blue Monkey for the article and a quote.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/3/2008)

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