Bioethics Blogs

The Ethical Implications of Harvesting Human Organs from Pigs

By Anayelly Medina

This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris in Summer 2016.

Anayelly is a rising Senior at Emory University majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology.
The Chimera is a Greek mythological fire-breathing monstrosity composed of multiple animal parts with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a snake. Not surprisingly, in the realm of science, chimera is also the name given to an organism or embryo containing a mixture of cells from two species. Recently, the world has learned of the current research efforts being made towards growing human organs in other animals, specifically pigs [2,3,4,5]. From these efforts, the human-pig chimera has been developed and so have ethical questions concerning the process and outcomes of this research.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, in the United States, about 22 people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant. This shortage of organ transplants has played a role in fueling researchers’ interests in developing alternative methods to solve this problem. One proposed method [5], by Pablo Ross, involves creating a human-pig chimera embryo, inserting it into the uterus of a pig, allowing it to develop, and having an end result of the growth of a human organ as the chimera develops. The process of creating the chimera, in this case one that will potentially develop a human pancreas, first involves removing the DNA in a pig embryo that would allow it to grow a pig pancreas.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.