OPINION: Animal gene editing is a step in the right direction for saving human lives

The birth of the first pig-monkey hybrids marks the beginning of chimera gene editing.

In Nov. 2019, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences inserted monkey stem cells into pig embryos, using in vitro fertilization to then continue pregnancy. From the thousands of embryos, 10 pigs were born, only two of them containing monkey cells throughout their bodies and organs. All of the pigs died in just a week, and the researchers blame this on a mishap in the IVF process.

Though the monkey cells were not present in abundance, they were found inside every organ besides the reproductive ones. The ultimate goal in this area of gene editing is to grow human organs inside animals so they can be harvested for transplants, and people are debating the ethicality.

According to Sentient Media, around 72 billion animals are slaughtered each year for food consumption. A lot of that meat ends up wasted because people can’t consume that much. If companies are allowed and it is accepted to grow animals for food, they should also be able to grow animals for something even more useful, like saving human lives.

Some people believe that it is unethical to raise animals with the sole purpose of killing them. However, this has been an ongoing debate with no consensus. Most would also agree that it is just as unethical, if not more, to let thousands of people die each year when there is a chance to save them.

Mayo Clinic claims that over 100,000 patients are currently awaiting organ transplants in America alone. They also state that each day, around 20 of those patients die due to not having organ donors. If organs were harvested from animals, the need for organ donors would be decreased if not eliminated, saving many human lives.

Many more patients will be able to be treated because it removes all of the demand for donors. According to the American Transplant Foundation, only 6,000 living donations occur each year, which is a small amount compared to the demand.

As scientists delve deeper into gene editing, they find solutions to many problems at the cost of animal lives. Human lives, however, outweigh animal lives. People should consider the number of humans who can potentially be saved through the IVF process rather than focus on the animal deaths.