Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chimeras (Humanized Animals)


Consider for a moment the hundreds of thousands of people in dire need of an organ transplant, or the multitudes of people who can’t recognize their families due to neural diseases.
And spare a thought for those whose bodies are being annihilated by cancer and who will surely spend their last moments on this planet in excruciating pain.
Now consider if it were your son who needed a liver transplant. Your Girlfriend dying of cancer or your mother whose mind leaves her a confused helpless mess.
What length would you go to, to save these people?
Would you accept a liver or kidney for transplant even if it had been grown inside a sheep?
Would you reject a cure for cancer because it was unethically developed….?
Would you?
I am guessing not!

Somewhere in Nevada a sheep was born whose heart and liver were largely human and in Minnisota there is a pig with human blood running in his veins and in California a lab mouse peers through his cage bars with a brain that is as much as 1% human.

These are not the creations of some sick horror movie mad scientist but rather a very complex Biological experiment that is helping scientist observe for the first time, how human cells react, not only with one another, but also with those of other animals.
They have been called Chimeras after a Greek mythological creature one that has parts of different creatures in one body.
By fusing Human cells with those of animals at different times in fetal development scientist have been able to create a pig with both human and pig blood cells and in a miraculous turn of events were able to observe how these cells merged to create a hybrid cells.
Realizing that pig viruses may be transmitted to humans, a sheep embryo was developed with a liver and heart that is as much as 80% human.
In theory these organs can be transplanted into the human body where our own immune system will reject the alien 20% and take root.

Testing of HIV drugs have also been simplified by a mouse that carries a complete human immune system and can be infected by the virus. Now drugs that may turn out to be toxic to humans can be tested on mice.

However while the US seems to have abandoned their plight with the UN to ban cloning completely, their attention has turned to chimeras and are campaigning for a ban on the creation of Chimeras.
However the wording of such a policy will have to be very very carefully thought out as the creation of chimeras is not as uncommon as one would think, as most twins carry a few cells from their sibling and of course mothers carry cells from their infant, not to mention the recipients of organ transplants or those whose defective heart valves have been replaced with those from pigs or cow’s.

Naturally the question of “How human is to human?” has been raised
And at what point have we raised an animals moral standing too much?
At what point should chimeras be allowed the same rights as a human being?

Scientist also say that there is a risk that the human cells in chimeras could spread to the testis and ovary’s. Producing human sperm and Human eggs..
If two such chimeras were to mate it would result in a human fetus whose parents are effectively a pair of mice or sheep or pigs.


The practice has been called unethical and scientists have been accused of ignoring the value of a human life.
Some quote the bible (like you didn’t see that coming).
However I question how questing to relieve mankind’s suffering can be called unethical.
I ask how the worlds leaders can declare war on aids and a fight against cancer but block science from exploring all avenues.
It is clear that the resources we have at our disposal are not heelding the needed results…
And wouldn’t it be grand if one person didn’t have to die to replace another’s heart.

I am not supporting a ban on this practice but rather a very strict oversight to ensure that the procedure is not in the interest of pure curiosity but rather in the interest of scientifically researching the benefits that such creations may hold for man kind.

Again I ask your opinion knowing that we may not all agree.

20 comments:

angel said...

awesome post lee!
wow, so much to think about!

i think i'm going to mull it over for a bit, then i'll come back and try to make an intelligent comment...

Nosjunkie said...

haha I had this on my mind for three days befor I could write about it I think I should add a link or two so you guys can go see some more info

Dan said...

This is an incredibly thought-provoking post Lee!

You say "wouldn’t it be grand if one person didn’t have to die to replace another’s heart". Of course it would. The part that's tricky is this ... if we can come up with a chimera whose heart can be easily used by a human, should we consider that chimera to be human? If so, we're back to sacrificing a human for another human.

On the other hand, if the chimera is far enough from being a human, how appropriate will the heart be? Probably not very.

When do we consider something human? In the US, a person considers themselves black if even just one of their ancestors is black (even going back many generations). They might have just 2% black blood and they still consider themselves black.

Would we consider a chimera a human if they were 51% human? How about 2%? Do these questions even have answers? And WHO gets to answer them? Because, after all, we all have our own answers, don't we?

Nosjunkie said...

I think that any creature who can make choices not based on instinc qualifies.
organs dont make us human and in essance a human being is no less than an animal and it is only our thoughts that make us human not our organs and blood.

sweetass RSA said...

everybody usually says "yeah" to a certain topic and then i'll say "nay"...so i'm just going to keep my mouth shut on this on... for now!

Mister Underhill said...

Those things sound very exciting. I don't see how anyone could be so idiotic as to obect to this. The only concern I have is the idea of putting human brains in animals, but I doubt researchers would want to, anyhow.

M@ said...

Personally, I think the bible should have absolutely no place in scientific discussions of human health.

M@ said...

You alter yourself when you strap on a wristwatch. It won't be long.... It's called the post-human future.

Pink ditz said...

Amazing post. Very interesting and thought provoking.
I think that if it's all for research that will help some of our major health problems it's fine. But it depends how human these chimera's are. I would agree with you that any creature who can make choices not based on instinct would qualify. But to what extent does this effect the animals,if they have very human behavoirs I think it's unfair to sacrifice them.
Putting human brains in them can be dangerous. It seems unlikely to me that a human fetus can be come from mice, but if this happens I worry about the state of such a person's mind.
I'm not entirely sure where I stand on this yet, I think I'll have to look into it more.

Nosjunkie said...

The funny thing is that they are creating human brains, so to speak, in other animals by converting animal brain with human stem cells and stuff.
they did transplant a piece of a quale brain in a chicken and after a while the chicken started bobbing his head and making qual noises the possibilities are endless
I would not object to the brain research if it had the slightest chance of helping to find a cure for oldsimers or parkinsons.
but yes the danger of making an animal too human is very real and hence I call for strickt monitoring of the practice but not a ban
Sweet ass you are more than welcome to agree or disagree with anything said this is the reason for the post after all.
Mr Underhill thanks for coming by and adding your piece of cheese I love new people
M@ I agree you know exactly how I feel about religion interfering.
especially simnce the church has a very long history of interevring with science because it discredits the bible. go read Angels and Deamons by Dan Brown if you have the time
Pink ditz. thanks hunny and yes obviously a human fetus canot go to full term in a mouse but I think the point was to transplant the fetus into a surigate or grow it in a tube but yes the quetion does stand as to what effect the mouse genes will have on the child if allowed to grow to full term

angel said...

still nothing intelligent here... my brain goes in six different directions when i think about it!
awesome post lee!

Nosjunkie said...

hehehe. thats like me and cloning when I first tried to form an opinion.

sweetass RSA said...

TAG~ you're it doll!!!!!

Nosjunkie said...

COOL I love you sweet ass

Dan said...

So who gets to decide whether the creature is making choices not based on instinct? I think you just defined a human in a way that's impossible to test. What's your test? You can't ask them how they're making their decisions.

Crankster said...

You ask the best questions!

I guess that I define "human" in terms that are more than physical. For me, humanity lies in the spirit and the intellect. I see humanity as having the ability to question its desires and beliefs, as having humor about itself and the curiosity to seek answers about its own development.

Of course, by this definition, only a fraction of the people currently walking the earth are human, which raises ethical questions of its own!

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Anonymous said...

By evolution, humans are humanized animals. If you consider humanization of animals to be unethical, you are implying that the existence of humans is unethical. Are you advocating that all humans shold be killed for ethical reasons? If not, then stop claiming that humanization of animals is unethical! See Pure science Wiki.

Martin J Sallberg

purescience.wiki