NIH lifts ban on combined embryo testing with human and animal cells


BETHESDA, Md (KJCT) -- A moratorium on studying embryos with both human and animal cells for scientific research in the U.S. could be lifted, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today.

Some studies involving human and animal cells have long been part of scientific research; human tumors, for example, are often grown in mice. But the NIH will investigate if it makes sense to allow certain human cells into animal embryos for study.

"Chimeras" -- embryos made of both animal and certain human cells -- could help shed light on a number of health issues, such as drug testing and disease modeling, according to the NIH. The NIH issued a moratorium on this kind of research in September 2015 over concerns that developing these embryos might lead to ethical and animal welfare concerns.

The NIH said it would reconsider this type of research and how to perform it in an ethical manner. The NIH is proposing studying human pluripotent cells in non-human vertebrate embryos that can be added at an specific stage of development. Human pluripotent cells could ultimately become a specific organ cell, such as a liver or heart cell, as long as the cells are used before developing into a fetus. In theory, this research could someday result in an animal growing a human organ that would then be used in organ donation. Continue reading
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