Scientists experiment by creating animal embryos and adding human DNA

4

Ethicists across the board are apprehensive about a new form of experimentation in which human DNA is manipulated in ways that could potentially result in part-animal, part-human embryos, or (further down the line), animals birthing fully human babies.

The experimental embryos are called chimeras.  The ostensible purpose of the research is to create human organs for transplantation into sick patients, but ethical concerns over the mechanism for achieving this and the potential for abuse of human Life in the process are significant.  In May, NPR reported:

One way would be to use chimera embryos to create better animal models to study how human diseases happen and how they progress.

Perhaps the boldest hope is to create farm animals that have human organs that could be transplanted into terminally ill patients.

But some scientists and bioethicists worry the creation of these interspecies embryos crosses the line.  “You’re getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity,” says Stuart Newman, a professor of cell biology and anatomy at the New York Medical College.

The National Institutes of Health, according to NPR, will not fund these experiments unless and until the ethical conundrum is resolved.  However, there are private scientists who are carrying on the research alone.  These researchers try to manipulate the genes of farm animals in their earliest days of gestation.  For example, pig embryos are injected with a molecule that edits the pig’s DNA so that the animal may not grow a pancreas.  Human pluripotent stem cells are then injected into these embryos before a scientist implants the embryos into a female pig.  He removes the embryos 28 days later to observe whether the development of a human pancreas has begun.

There is much uncertainty related to this experimentation.  For example, what would happen if two chimeras bred?  What are the implications of creating a species that is only part human?  What are the ethics of combining human DNA with an animal?  What if the human DNA overtakes more than just the pancreas – entering, say, the brain?  This uncertainty, though, and the glaring ethical dilemmas associated with continuing the research, have not been enough to give some scientists pause.  In fact, they are willing to gamble on the outcome in hopes that the desired outcome would motivate the NIH to lift the moratorium on funding such experimentation.

The jury may still be out on the vast ethical implications of this scientific research, but one aspect is not at all vague: the scientist’s willingness to risk egregious violations of human dignity for the sake of a potential breakthrough.  While the more thoughtful members of the scientific community have recognized the weighty nature and repercussions of this research, a handful of researchers forge ahead with apparent willingness to leave human dignity and research ethics trampled in their wake.  The case bears alarming resemblance to that of scientists whose gratuitous use of aborted fetal cadavers and parts has yielded no significant medical breakthroughs, and along the way has carried immense cost in terms of devaluing human Life.

What are your thoughts on human-animal “chimeras”?  Tell us in the comments below.

Share.

4 Comments

  1. That is not true. The pigs are not even partially human. They have no human DNA. Proteins from adult stem cells were used to manipulate the pig pamcreas gene and change how it is expressed in the hope that it will produce a human-like…not actually human–pancreas. The Progressive college professor quoted by NPR is lying about pigs producing human offspring, which is impossible, but is almost comical in this particular experiment, since the pigs are not chimeras at all.

  2. I will tell you right now I’m no scientists or have the education of one .but I know when you go messing around with thing that you do not know the out come.. like take a cat have kittens and one will not look like the dad or mom . so you do not know all the jeans in the Jean pool . you could be making a monster. and if you keep it locked up you unhume you mad at monster so kill it or love it . I know and think your doing wrong . has the pass taught you something .

  3. Donna Ellis on

    This Is just gross. People shouldn’t be messing with God’s work. God didn’t attend mixing animals with humans. Sick ass people In this world.

    • God isn’t real. The main thing that is halting the evolution and survival of the human species is the disillusioned people that fail to see that ethnics should not be interjected into scientific research. The simple fact is you are an evolved ape. You came from the animal that your god, who was a creation of the people that wanted to control your actions through the belief system, which all humans have a displacement for because they simply want to understand their existence. So currently you worship the image of Cesare Borgia, and are completely proud of it. Good for you. When the advancements are available, if it is against your beliefs, don’t utilize the thing that can save your life. Pray to God and Cesare, maybe they will save you, while people who understand what these advancements are for live, you can die off and take your archaic, uncultured, and just plan senile way of thinking with you. If you don’t like it, don’t use it, but don’t get in the way of people that do wish to use it. If you are right, we will pay when that time comes, but don’t make us suffer for your beliefs.