A series of experiments that have been deemed "sick" and "disturbing" by opponents of the research has yielded the first successful half human-half chicken embryos. The aim of the bizarre research was to transplant human stem cells onto newly-formed chicken embryos so they can find out more about how cells become fetuses.
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The researchers believe the findings could yield a whole host of new treatments for developmental disorders but opponents have taken to social media to voice their concerns. One Twitter user named EricHedean said, "This is SICK!". Another user named Bernie For The Greater Good said, "For real. That's some sick stuff, no excuses when there are supercomputers to do molecular level research." Another named Ashley said, "Extremely scary and Super disturbing!!"
The experiments were led by researcher Ali Brivanlou at Rockefeller University in New York. Scientists know that embryonic stem cells can become any of the body's specialized cell types ranging from bone and brain to lung and liver. When these specialized cell organizers are transplanted from one embryo to another, it prompts its new host to create a secondary spinal column and central nervous system with its own spinal cord and brain.
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Because of restrictions and ethical guidelines that limit experimentation on human embryos, scientists did not know if a similar cell organizer existed in humans. In the state of Massachusetts, experiments can be performed on embryos that are 14 days old or younger but this is right at the boundary organizer cells begin to form. Dr. Brivanlou's team grew artificial human embryos to bypass the law which they then used to transplant into chicken embryos.
Sure enough, as soon as the artificial human embryos were introduced to the chicken embryos, a secondary spinal column and the nervous system began to form which confirmed the presence of a human organizer cell. Dr. Brivanlou said, "Once you transplant the human organizer into a chicken embryo, the language it uses to instruct the bird cells to establish the brain and nervous system is exactly the same as the one used by amphibians and fish. To my amazement, the graft not only survived but actually gave rise to these beautifully organized structures."
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