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Monkey receives a liver transplant from a pig and survives for 16 days, Chinese surgeons claim

A monkey which received a pig’s liver during a groundbreaking experiment in China has survived for over two weeks, experts have claimed.

The animal is one of the three macaques that underwent organ transplant operations conducted by a team of surgeons earlier this month, according to a hospital in north-western China’s Xi’an city.

The success could mean that Chinese researchers are a step closer to solve a global shortage of human organs for transplantation, the hospital has said. 

A monkey which received a pig's liver during a groundbreaking experiment in China survived for over two weeks, surgeons have claimed. The picture shows the animal after surgery

A monkey which received a pig's liver during a groundbreaking experiment in China survived for over two weeks, surgeons have claimed. The picture shows the animal after surgery

A monkey which received a pig’s liver during a groundbreaking experiment in China survived for over two weeks, surgeons have claimed. The picture shows the animal after surgery

The animal was one of the three rhesus macaques that underwent organ transplant operations conducted by a team of researchers earlier this month in northwestern China's Xi'an city

The animal was one of the three rhesus macaques that underwent organ transplant operations conducted by a team of researchers earlier this month in northwestern China's Xi'an city

The animal was one of the three rhesus macaques that underwent organ transplant operations conducted by a team of researchers earlier this month in northwestern China’s Xi’an city

Medical experts extracted a pig’s heart, kidney and liver before transplanting the organs to three rhesus macaques on June 13, according to the Xijing Hospital, which is affiliated to China’s Air Force Medical University. 

Footage released by the local government shows one of the primates lying on the operating table after the medical experts completing the procedure.  

The three transplants were conducted at the same time and all organs were functioning perfectly following the surgery, the Xi’an hospital said.

The monkey that received a kidney only survived for a day while the primate with a transplanted heart died after a week. 

But the macaque with the pig’s liver had lived 16 days – the longest-surviving animal to receive a foreign liver transplant in the world – the team announced on Monday. It is understood that the monkey remains alive. 

A team of Chinese medics extracted a pig's heart, kidney and liver before transplanting the organs to three monkeys on June 13, according to the Xijin Hospital in north-western China

A team of Chinese medics extracted a pig's heart, kidney and liver before transplanting the organs to three monkeys on June 13, according to the Xijin Hospital in north-western China

A team of Chinese medics extracted a pig’s heart, kidney and liver before transplanting the organs to three monkeys on June 13, according to the Xijin Hospital in north-western China

The monkey that received a kidney only survived for a day while the primate with a transplanted heart died after a week. The picture shows the monkey after receiving a pig's liver

The monkey that received a kidney only survived for a day while the primate with a transplanted heart died after a week. The picture shows the monkey after receiving a pig's liver

The monkey that received a kidney only survived for a day while the primate with a transplanted heart died after a week. The picture shows the monkey after receiving a pig’s liver

The researchers said that they used a genome-editing technique known as porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) to perform the experiment. A scientist is pictured explaining the operation after completing all three transplants from a pig to three monkeys in Xi'an

The researchers said that they used a genome-editing technique known as porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) to perform the experiment. A scientist is pictured explaining the operation after completing all three transplants from a pig to three monkeys in Xi'an

The researchers said that they used a genome-editing technique known as porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) to perform the experiment. A scientist is pictured explaining the operation after completing all three transplants from a pig to three monkeys in Xi’an

The researchers said that they used a genome-editing technique known as porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) to perform the experiment. 

The record-breaking experiment comes after two chimera piglets containing monkey DNA have previously been born in China.

Although both died within a week and appeared to be normal, the baby animals had genetic material from cynomolgus monkeys in their heart, liver, spleen, lung and skin.

Scientists said the research, which required more than 4,000 embryos to get the piglets, aims to find ways of growing human organs in animals for transplantation.

The record-breaking experiment comes after two chimera piglets containing monkey DNA have previously been born in China. Although both died within a week and appeared to be normal, the baby animals had genetic material from cynomolgus monkeys

The record-breaking experiment comes after two chimera piglets containing monkey DNA have previously been born in China. Although both died within a week and appeared to be normal, the baby animals had genetic material from cynomolgus monkeys

The record-breaking experiment comes after two chimera piglets containing monkey DNA have previously been born in China. Although both died within a week and appeared to be normal, the baby animals had genetic material from cynomolgus monkeys

‘This is the first report of full-term monkey-pig chimeras’, Tang Hai at the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing told New Scientist.

Five-day old piglet embryos had monkey stem cells injected into them that had been adjusted to produce a flourescent protein, allowing researchers to find out where the cells ended up.

The scientists said it was unclear why the two chimera piglets died, but as eight other normal piglets that were implanted also died, they think this is a problem with the IVF process rather than chimerism.

Despite the research, some members of the scientific community have warned against creating chimeras due to ethical concerns. 

Neuroscientist Douglas Munoz at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, said that research projects like this ‘just really ethically scares me’.

‘For us to start to manipulate life functions in this kind of way without fully knowing how to turn it off, or stop it if something goes awry really scares me.’

Monkey stem cells were injected into five-day-old pig embryos before they were implanted into sows. However, China shows no sign of stopping after proposing to create monkeys with partially human-derived brains in order to better study diseases like Alzheimer's

Monkey stem cells were injected into five-day-old pig embryos before they were implanted into sows. However, China shows no sign of stopping after proposing to create monkeys with partially human-derived brains in order to better study diseases like Alzheimer's

Monkey stem cells were injected into five-day-old pig embryos before they were implanted into sows. However, China shows no sign of stopping after proposing to create monkeys with partially human-derived brains in order to better study diseases like Alzheimer’s

However, China shows no sign of stopping after proposing to create monkeys with partially human-derived brains in order to better study diseases like Alzheimer’s.

And Yale University stem cell expert Alejandro De Los Angeles has written that the search for a better animal model to stimulate human disease has been a ‘holy grail’ of biomedical research for decades.

‘Realising the promise of human-monkey chimera research in an ethically and scientifically appropriate manner will require a coordinated approach’, he said.

A human-pig hybrid embryo was created in January 2017, at the Salk Institute in San Diego, but died 28 days later.

It is hoped the research could offer an alternative to organ donation.

Around three people a day die in the UK according to the NHS and 12 in the US because replacement organs cannot be found.