Legs amputated during surgery may be used in an experiment to see if they help police dogs find victims’ bodies.
The lower limbs would be donated by consenting, living hospital patients with conditions like diabetes.
If the plans are approved, trials will go ahead to see if the dogs can tell the difference between animal and human remains.
They will take place in October at Porton Down – a science and defence technology campus in Wiltshire – according to government sources.
Police dogs are typically trained to search for the bodies of missing people using pig flesh. But without training using human tissue, there is a risk dogs may miss victims who could have been found.
It is thought dogs will be offered a mix of decomposed animal and human scent samples to test whether they can identify the difference.
Ethical approval from the Health Research Authority (HRA) is legally required for the research – commissioned by the Home Office – before it can start.
The application is currently being reviewed by the body with an update expected in the coming days, an HRA spokeswoman said.
The HRA has been told the project has been reviewed by the Ministry of Defence’s research ethics committee, she added.
If successful, the trial could lead to changes in government policy on how police dogs are trained.
It comes as the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is reviewing dog training practices.
A source said: ‘This is the first time research of this kind would be carried out in the UK and it could be groundbreaking if it shows using human flesh in training can help dogs find more missing victims.
‘The work even has the potential to pave the way for the country to have its first body farm.’
A body farm is a research facility which studies the decomposition of human corpses. There are several in the United States of America, one in Australia and another in the Netherlands – thought to be the only one in Europe – but none so far in the UK.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We have commissioned a pilot to understand whether the training of victim detection dogs can be enhanced.
‘Studies of this nature are vital to evolve our capabilities to protect the public and bring offenders to justice.’
The NPCC said it would not comment on the project.
Metro.co.uk has asked the Human Tissue Authority for comment.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check our news page.