• Question: What are the chances of creating animals that can re-grow their organs so that we can keep harvesting them and save resources, i don't consider this animal abuse since we have developed tech which we can use to clearly communicate with the animals, an example would be if the animal is comfortable or safe or if its not we can tell, thank you

    Asked by A1 to Martin on 13 Nov 2023.
    • Photo: Martin Minarik

      Martin Minarik answered on 13 Nov 2023:

      Hi, that’s an intriguing question, but a complicated one too. First, even if we indeed develop tech to communicate with the animals, they will still only understand things that they are regularly communicating with each other as a species, which means very simple messages compared to humans. None of them will understand the concept of organ donation so won’t be able to give us informed consent for it, leaving us with the same ethical issues. Would a repeated harvesting of one animal’s organ be better than the current practice of sacrificing the animal? I’m not sure and they won’t tell us. In terms of resources, I’m afraid it may be easier and cheaper to grow a new animal compared to repeatedly providing intensive support to the same animal again and again after each surgery, even if this was possible in the future. At least in mammals, it will be much easier to grow a human-like organ from a modified embryo and then harvest it in an adult, rather than making an adult grow a new organ from scratch because, unlike some other animals, we mammals do not naturally regrow adult organs when removed. In embryos, all the genes are switched in the correct order to signal to each other properly to grow the organs, while in adults, different genes are switched on, that are needed for the organs’ daily function. You would have to completely reprogram all this in an adult to make it grow a new organ as an embryo would. This is easier to control in a lab rather than in the body of a large living animal, so in fact growing organs artificially in the lab on human-made 3D substrate might be the best alternative to using embryos and growing them into adult animals.