Politics

PLAYING GOD? Human Animal Hybrid Embryos Created in California Lab

Human-animal hybrid embryos. It sounds like the plot from some sci-fi thriller, but this report is very, very real.

Science, like most other fields of study, has long required its practitioners to push the envelope.  That is the nature of the beast when it comes to innovation, but we must also temper that need for progress with some logic and rationale. Much like Jeff Goldblum’s character laments in the film Jurassic Park, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should, and that said was before he accidentally mixed his DNA with that of a fly in the movie, The Fly. 

The latest news out of California is no movie, no joke, but very frightening:

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For the first time, scientists have created embryos that are a mix of human and monkey cells.

The embryos, described Thursday in the journal Cell, were created in part to try to find new ways to produce organs for people who need transplants, said the international team of scientists who collaborated in the work. But the research raises a variety of concerns.

“My first question is: Why?” said Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”

The human and monkey cells divided and grew together in a dish. At least 3 embryos survived 19 days after fertilization–YIKES.

Scientists are defending the controversial decision, however, and doing so sternly.

“This is one of the major problems in medicine — organ transplantation,” said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, Calif., and a co-author of the Cell study. “The demand for that is much higher than the supply.”

“I don’t see this type of research being ethically problematic,” said Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and Harvard University. “It’s aimed at lofty humanitarian goals.”

And then, with a tacit acknowledgment of the creepy thoughts running through Americans’ minds…

“Our goal is not to generate any new organism, any monster,” Belmonte said. “And we are not doing anything like that. We are trying to understand how cells from different organisms communicate with one another.”

Communicate? Like In the Planet of the Apes?  Do they expect monkeys to talk?

The scientists say they aren’t trying to create new creatures,  but accidents happen and not just in the movies.

Cross-posted with The Lid.  Additional material by Andrew West

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