Health

Sheep research could pave way for growing human organs in animals

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It sounds like sci-fi, but it’s just science.

Researchers have created the first human-sheep hybrids, which could lead the way for organs to be grown in animals that can be transplanted into people.

In addition to boosting supply of much-needed healthy organs, the process could lead to a cure for diabetes by creating healthy pancreases.

A similar study with pigs was announced a year ago, but the Stanford University-based human-sheep hybrid research appears to have a leg up.

“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 without any immunosuppressants,” said Stanford geneticist Hiro Nakauchi, who announced the study Sunday at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Austin, Texas.

But there is much more work needed, along with ethical questions surrounding this type of research. Nakuachi said that he believed the technique is five to ten years from completion.

Then again, time is always of the essence when it comes to transplants. Every ten minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). On average, 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant, the group notes.

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