Scientists have created human-chicken hybrid embryos, and if you’re wondering why on earth they would do such a thing, the Inquisitr is here to explain it to you!
However, before you read too much further, there are some things you need to know – things you’ve likely been wondering about since you saw the headline to this article. First, according to IFL Science, the hybrid embryos were created with human stem cells transplanted onto chicken embryos: in other words, this experiment did not and does not involve viable human embryos. Secondly, the hybrid embryos, called “chimaeras,” only lasted about 48 hours before becoming unviable, meaning that no, you aren’t going to see human-chicken hybrids running around outside of the lab any time soon.
OK, So What’s Going On?
Scientists at The Rockefeller University in New York grew human stem cells on a petri dish, then transplanted them onto brand-new chicken embryos. From there, they observed the development of the embryos for the next 24 to 48 hours, until they were no longer viable.
But Why Though?
The new process allows scientists to observe and measure early human developmental processes that were previously unavailable to them.
In its early stages of development, any vertebrate embryo – be it a human, chicken, dog, or fish – transition from an amorphous clump of cells into a three-layered amalgamation of cells that vaguely resembles what it will eventually become. The embryo will have defined head-to-tail, back-to-front, and left-to-right axes.
The driving force behind this process, according to Scientific American, is “organizer cells,” and until now, scientists have been unable to observe the work of these cells in humans. That’s because the scientific community regards such experimentation as unethical; by using chicken-human hybrids, scientists are able to still observe the process while avoiding thorny ethical, philosophical and legal issues.
Dr. Martin Blum, a developmental biologist at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, calls the new process “beautiful.”
“It’s a real advance – it’s beautiful this can be shown without the need of using embryos.”
But What’s The Point?
Being able to bypass ethical restrictions opens up an entire world of early human development to researchers. Someday, that research may lead to therapies that may help living humans regenerate cells or tissues – for example, after a severe burn, or if an individual is in need of an organ transplant.
Martin Blum, a developmental biologist at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany, says the possibilities are endless.
“Human embryonic stem cells and eggs have all the information. Everything else is pushing the first domino.”