Ganogen, a biotech company in Redwood City, California, released a study about a medical technique that would remove organs from an aborted fetus and implant them inside animals where the organs could grow, and eventually be transplanted into a human in need.
The study, published in the American Journal of Transplantation, notes more research is needed and that it raises moral and ethical questions.
"Our long-term goal is to grow human organs in animals, to end the human donor shortage," Eugene Gu, co-author of the report and CEO of Ganogen, told Live Science.
The organs could also be used to test drugs before human trials, added Gu, a Duke University medical student.
There are plenty of ethical questions regarding fetuses and transplanting human organs into animals. At the same time, there is a definite need for more organs for human transplants.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the organ donor list has more than 121,000 waiting for organs, 79 people receive organ transplants daily and 21 people die each day in the U.S. because they need a transplant.
Gu and his fellow researchers got some human fetal kidneys from Stem Express, a company that provides human tissue and organs via donors.
Gu and his team transplanted the kidneys into rats by connecting the tiny organs to the rodents' blood vessels via stitches that were several times smaller than a human hair.
After Gu's team removed the rats' kidneys, the rodents survived on the human fetal kidneys for an average of four months, although one lucky rat made it to 10 months. The problem is the blood pressure for animals is different than humans, so Gu's team created a device to deal with that issue.
Gu believes this method could eventually work with other organs, such as human hearts.
GU's study didn't receive any government funds, but relied on private donations from family, friends and investors.
Sources: Live Science, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Image Credit: Ganogen Website