Should Pigs Grow Our Organs?

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The latest science technology has allowed us to grow human organs in other animals for human transplantation. Now this is quite a controversial topic. KQED has created a DoNowU for students and anyone interested in commenting on the latest news, science, and research based on this topic.

Check out the page here: Should Pigs Be Used to Grow Human Organs?

If you don’t already know how the process works, here is some background information about transplantation with pigs in a video from BBC that briefly explains the process.

 

 

There are many bioethical issues concerning this method of growing organs for human purposes, mainly revolving around the sanctity of life for all living beings. Because this is such a new field of science and not many trials have been performed, researchers don’t know what to expect as side effects. Scientists say pigs could develop human-like brains. Within less than a month, the pig embryos are killed to prevent the creation of pig-human hybrids. So in essence, these pigs are born just for the sake of growing human organs. However, a perfect growth of organs and smooth transplantation is not guaranteed. Many errors may occur with the interference of the pig’s own immune system and DNA to kill the human cells intruding the pig’s body.

With all of these negative drawbacks, people are still considering growing organs in pigs for human reasons. Growing organs in pigs decreases the number of people waiting  and dying for an organ donor significantly. In addition, the human body supposedly won’t face rejection from the organ because the organ is composed of the body’s own cells. Otherwise, the patient usually must take immune system suppressing medication to prevent the body from attacking foreign cells.

As for my opinion, I can’t fully support one side or another. For the sake of pig’s and the sanctity of life, I don’t think humans are so much important than other animals that we could breed pig embryos only for human’s sake. This really is just murder. What makes murdering an animal acceptable, while we shame homicide amongst each other?

While humans may see organ transplantation as a necessity, is it really? We complain that we have too many people on this planet. We say that we are stretching the earth’s capacity to house all 7 billion of us. But isn’t this just another part of that process? I feel like there is such a contradiction with us extending the lives of humans, but ruining our planet simultaneously.

At the same time, I have a tendency to be insensitive, especially to other’s feelings and situations. If I or someone close to me were in the situation where one of us needed an organ transplant, I would desperately want the organ. I can’t say if I would take an organ from a pig, but if I had no option, the least I can say right now is that I would leave a pig-grown organ as my last choice.

The main overarching message is that humans are selfish, no matter how hard we try not to be. We can’t be blamed; it’s just our nature. But our job as analytical, cognitive, and logical beings is to stop ourselves from getting carried away.

Still interested in reading more? Check out these articles for more information:

Your Genome: What is CRISPR-Cas9?

National Geographic: Human-Pig Hybrid Created in the Lab – Here are the Facts

 

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4 thoughts on “Should Pigs Grow Our Organs?

  1. Hey Meesh!

    I love that you added more articles at the end that enabled the reader to learn more information! I also relate to the fact that sometimes, if I am not personally affected by something then the importance of it does not matter as much to me. It is great to realize this because then we can work towards empathy! Love the insight here girly, I think you do a great job of seeing the issue from both sides.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hillary Tighe

    In some ways, I agree a lot with you. I don’t feel as if I can support one side. How this process will affect the pigs is still very unknown. However, if using pigs to grow human organs proves to be successful, many human lives can be saved. You wrote that you don’t feel humans are so much more important than other animals and that breeding pig embryos only for them to be killed is murder. This is something that I feel a bit differently about. Pigs are bred all the time to be killed for food. While some people may disagree with me, I do place a higher value on a human life over a pig’s. I think that in a way, everyone who eats meat is recognizing this. I justify eating meat by the fact that animals eat other animals. As long as humans don’t go too far or treat the animals poorly, which are both big problems that do happen all the time, I think that this is okay. The bioethical principle of respect for autonomy would definitely be broken with creating pig embryos for human organs, as pigs obviously can’t give informed consent. Are pigs included in these principles or are these only referring to humans? They are talking about individuals and patients but do these same concepts apply to all living things? You bring up an interesting point that this process could be interfering with the size of the population on Earth. We would be stretching the Earth’s capacity even further by saving a significant number of human lives. I like how you counter this argument by recognizing that you would probably feel differently if the patient was yourself or someone you knew. Something that occurred to me while reading this is how people would probably feel very different, if this were being done on dogs or cats. I know I would probably be a lot more against it, just as I would be extremely against this being done on other humans. I think this shows how we value some animal’s lives more than others and we place humans above everything else. Different cultures also feel differently about eating certain animals and might have different views about whether or not using pig embryos to grow human organs is ethical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a vegetarian, I don’t support the meat industry, mostly for it’s environmental effects and for health reasons. However, I do realize that humans are omnivores. I just don’t support the mass breeding with hormones and unnatural livestock feed that are sad realities, which is similar to breeding pigs just for their organs. I totally agree with your point of us just being animals eating other animals, but I feel that the meat industry as it is today causes too much environmental and moral harm.
      You are definitely right about the dogs and cats point. We would surely shame anyone who would consider growing an organ on more familiar animals like ones that we commonly hold as pets.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Edith Leung

    What a controversial topic. You know how I feel about animals and overly techy/futuristic science… I am certainly not a fan. It just doesn’t seem natural for us humans to be growing organs in other animals. I agree with Hillary, the commenter above, who says that we probably would react differently if instead of using a pig, we used dogs or cats instead.
    You are right though – if someone we knew and loved needed an organ transplant so badly, we may have had to resort to technology like this. I really can’t say whether I am for or against this type of science because of this reason.
    I really like what you guys are studying in AP Biology. This topic is very relevant currently!

    Liked by 1 person

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