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25 May, 2018 15:16

‘Human’ cells mixed with chicken embryos in bizarre scientific experiment

‘Human’ cells mixed with chicken embryos in bizarre scientific experiment

US scientists have mixed artificial human cells with the embryos of a chicken in a bizarre experiment that grew bone and nerve structures.

The study into the early forms of human development was carried out by a research team at the Rockefeller University in New York, and made use of embryos from avian test animals and artificial cells designed to replicate human tissue.

Published in the journal Nature, the stem cell research delves into the complex evolution of important human organs like the brain, lungs, liver, as well as bone structure. By understanding the growth of such structures, the defined pathways of certain cells, its hoped scientists can reverse engineer diseases which impact them.

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For the study, researchers grafted clusters of human cells onto genuine chicken embryos and found that the mix developed a spinal structure as well as early stages of nerve tissue. It’s the first time scientists have achieved such a feat. While it’s unlikely that hybrid mutant-chicken-people will now be grown in labs, the study does highlight an interesting reaction of DNA from two entirely different species.

“To my amazement the graft not only survived, but actually gave rise to these beautifully organized structures,” said Ali Brivanlou, head scientist behind the project. The graft embryo did not live long enough to develop any further.

According to the Brivanlou, the fact that the human cells developed into parts of a spine and the chicken tissue formed separate neuroanatomy indicate signalling or defined pathways exist.

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“Once you transplant the human organizer into a chicken embryo, the language it uses to instruct bird cells to establish the brain and nervous system is exactly the same as the one used by amphibians and fish,” Brivanlou added.

While the study has been hailed as a step in advancing regenerative medicine not everyone is pleased, with some online commenters fearing the worst.

“Ethical? I don’t think so. We need to stop messing with nature,” wrote one commenter.

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