SCIENTISTS have grown human-like kidneys in pigs for the first time.
The “chimeric” organs – made up of a mixture of human and pig cells – survived for 28 days inside the animal, Chinese researchers said.
They could pave the way for future fully human organs needed for transplants to be grown in pigs, helping to meet overwhelming demand.
Dr. Liangxue Lai of Wuyi University said: “Rat organs were made in mice, and mouse organs were made in rats.”
“However, previous attempts to grow human organs in pigs have been unsuccessful.
“Our approach improves the integration of human cells into recipient tissues and allows us to grow human organs in pigs.”
Around 5,000 Brits currently need a transplant because they are in the late stages of a fatal kidney disease.
However, the average waiting time is two to three years due to a shortage of kidneys and about 1,100 surgeries performed annually.
The delay is too long for many patients: 45,000 Britons die from chronic kidney disease every year.
The new research, published in cell stem cellwanted to address this problem by looking for a new way to preserve human organs that does not rely on donors.
Researchers took human stem cells — which can turn into any cell in the body — and put them in pig embryos.
These cells caused the embryos to develop human-like kidneys instead of their normal organs.
The embryos were implanted in surrogate mothers, where they developed for four weeks before being taken out to see how the organs were doing.
Five embryos had developed structurally normal kidneys that consisted of up to 60 percent human cells.
The researchers said they may be able to develop a fully human kidney in a pig in the future.
Dr. Miguel Esteban of the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health said: “We would probably have to construct the pigs in a much more complex way.
“That also brings with it some additional challenges.”
Independent experts praised the “groundbreaking” research and said it could prove to be the “ultimate solution” to the need for more organ transplants.
Professor Darius Widera of the University of Reading said: “In the future, this technology could address the current shortage of compatible donors for a kidney transplant.”