rat climbing out of a bottle

Embryos, Stem cells, and Rats.

Hybrid Embryos in Japan

So, a scientist in Japan has gotten the go-ahead to attempt to grow human organs in the embryos of animals like rats. If you read the article in the link, you will see this has worked just fine for mice and rats, but bridging over to human organs has proven more difficult. That won’t stop the from trying. Science marches on, and it sure would be great to have a replacement pancreas, I agree…but still. There’s a strong amount of ick factor on this one.

For starters there is the visual of a human pancreas growing inside of a rat. What does that look like, even? Does the pancreas just keep on growing until you have a giant distended pancreas hanging out the side of the engineered rat? What happens to the rat after they remove the pancreas? Does the person receiving the organ get a photo of the donating rat?

Also, how are they going to get this out to the public? This is pretty complicated stuff and I can imagine the majority of Americans will not jump at the opportunity to have a rat pancreas. Maybe they will call it something else, like a H-Pancreas, or a Cultivated Organ Donation.

Perhaps more importantly we are getting into areas that body horror has been anticipating for awhile now. Will body horror now be as obsolete as dystopic science-fiction? When the early experiments start going all kinds of very wrong, will body horror make the news cycles for a few weeks, celebrated as prescient, and then shuffled off to the back shelves where it had been previously. Maybe we can look forward to some feel good mainstream cinema about the inspirational journeys of the brave souls who have to make the Cultivated Organs a part of their daily life.

AND THEN! And then we will have the rescue efforts to create CO replacement organs for the rats and mice that were kind enough to cultivate the organs prior to donation. There will be an entire follow-on industry to create these tiny pancreases and find homes for these brave rats. They will have super cushy mini rat apartments at pet stores, and even if you don’t offer to host one, you can have your picture taken with one on your arm. The ones that donate organs to celebrities will be especially popular and valuable. Who wouldn’t want to own the rat that saved Tom Cruise? I mean besides Tom Cruise, I assume he would have first dibs unless there is some rule about not meeting the rat who donated a CO to you.

Anyway, I hope someone is thinking through these things as they tinker with the hybrid embryos. I mean, probably nothing to worry about, I am a stem cell patient and I am doing just fine. Totally normal.