Pig Science Makes Post Swine-Flu Comeback

Illustration for article titled Pig Science Makes Post Swine-Flu Comeback

Could pig embryos help humans become healthier and more resistant to illnesses like swine flu? That's a theory that's currently being investigated by Israeli scientists, but is it kosher?

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According to New Scientist, scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel have given two diabetic monkeys new pancreases grown from pig embryos. The new organs were successfully infiltrated by monkey blood vessels and made insulin, but the tests don't necessarily prove anything definitively; the monkeys were also given drugs during the trial, which may have skewed results. Dr. David Cooper, of the University of Pittsburgh, isn't impressed:

They've not made the case that these monkeys needed less immunosuppressive therapy... Nor am I convinced the approach has advantages over transplantation of adult or neonatal pig [organ].

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Tests are continuing, but I have to admit to loving the idea that scientists prove that pig embryos can make humans healthier while everyone is still worrying about swine flu. It's like science karma or something.

Pig embryos could provide tougher transplant organs [New Scientist]

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DISCUSSION

To answer the first question you post: It's immaterial whether this can be considered kosher, as the Laws of Kashrut are limited to dietary practices. Since the embryos being worked on are in no way being looked at as a food source, there's no Talmudic concerns being brought up here.

Just because there's a pig involved doesn't mean whether it's kosher or not need be cited every time. There's a story that appeared years ago in ANALOG, the title of which escapes me now, where a rabbi is asked to consider whether a genetically modified pig was still traif, which better deals with the point raised than this post does.