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Cells are justly considered the integral units of life, but
accumulating evidence shows that they don't always remain separate
and distinct. As early as the 1840s, cells with multiple nuclei, as
in muscle, were seen to form by the fusion of precursor cells. In
the 1960s, biologists were able to force cells to fuse in the lab.
In the last two years, researchers have shown that donor bone marrow
cells injected into mice or humans can fuse with the cells of
various organs. Recently, after injecting human bone marrow cells
into fetal pigs, the authors observed that even cells from different
species can fuse, forming cells with single blended nuclei. Such
cell fusion could allow the transfer of diseases across species; for
example, pig endogenous retroviral sequences were transferred to the
partly human cells. It's also possible that cell fusion is a long
overlooked part of normal development; cell fusion could potentially
be a way of generating complexity within an organism.
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