Creating Human-Animal Hybrids Is Now Allowed In Japan

The Japanese Government has recently lifted a ban on stem-cell research, allowing scientists at the University of Tokyo to develop human-animal hybrids.

Hiromitsu Nakauchi is the director for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Tokyo and team leader at Stanford's Nakauchi Lab. He is the first scientist who received approval for the experiments that involve growing human cells in rat and mouse embryos, before being brought to term in a surrogate animal.

While many argue that studies like this are the same as playing God, scientists say that their objective is to help create organs that will be used for human transplants. According to their theory, they could develop animals with organs built from human cells, organs that could be used for transplants in humans, shortening the long waitlists.

"We don't expect to create human organs immediately, but this allows us to advance our research-based upon the know-how we have gained up to this point," Nakauchi told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

However, Jiro Nudeshima, a life science specialist, expressed serious doubts this research:

"If the goal of such studies is to discover a therapeutic application for humans, experiments on rats and mice are unlikely to produce a useful result because the size of the organ will not be sufficient and the result will be a far cry from humans anatomically"

Research on hybrid embryos has been allowed in Japan for some time, but up until now, it was restricted from going past a 14-day growth period. This year in March, the restriction was lifted when Japan's education and science ministry announced that the hybrid embryos could now be brought to full term.

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