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Next Steps on Research Using Animal Embryos Containing Human Cells

Biomedical researchers have created and used animal models containing human cells for decades to gain valuable insights into human biology and disease development. For example, human tumor cells are routinely grown in mice to study cancer disease processes and to evaluate potential treatment strategies. To advance regenerative medicine, it is common practice to validate the potency of pluripotent human cells – which can become any tissue in the body – through introducing them into rodents.

With recent advances in stem cell and gene editing technologies, an increasing number of researchers are interested in growing human tissues and organs in animals by introducing pluripotent human cells into early animal embryos. Formation of these types of human-animal organism, referred to as “chimeras”, holds tremendous potential for disease modeling, drug testing, and perhaps eventual organ transplant. However, uncertainty about the effects of human cells on off-target organs and tissues in the chimeric animals, particularly in the nervous system, raises ethical and animal welfare concerns.

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Happy 70th Birthday, Randomized Clinical Trial

The first randomized clinical trial in medicine, whose influence is still felt today, celebrates its 70th birthday this year.

It’s true that some will look back to much older clinical trials—Dr. James Lind's on a British ship in 1747, or even King Nebuchadnezzar’s around 550 B.C., as recorded in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, both of whom tested the effects of different diets on different groups.

But I found, while working on another article in this blog on first-in-human trials in the UK, that what is considered the first randomized clinical trial in medicine was the control trial of streptomycin to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, which was begun in 1946 by UK’s Medical Research Council, with Sir Austin Bradford Hill as statistician.

Hill is credited with instituting randomization in clinical trials.

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