Biology professor: Experiments will be “damaging to our sense of humanity”
DAVIS, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) – U.S. scientists claim they are working on an animal-human hybrid.
Referred to as a “chimera” after the multi-animal blend from Greek mythology, the interspecies embryos are expected to assist those with a wide range of diseases. According to researchers, this includes manufacturing farm animals with human organs developed to be transplanted into critically ill patients.
“We’re not trying to make a chimera just because we want to see some kind of monstrous creature,” claims reproductive biologist Pablo Ross of the University of California, Davis. “We’re doing this for a biomedical purpose.”
The process involves replacing DNA within the animal embryo and filling the gap with human-induced pluripotent stem cells, before fertilizing the embryo in an adult animal. To date, no altered embryos have been allowed to gestate beyond 28 days before being removed to study.
The practice has been met with some criticism, with the National Institute of Health (NIH) refusing to provide the researchers federal funding for their work, citing ongoing investigations into the ethical implications. Peers of the scientists have likewise raised concerns over the experiments.
“You’re getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity,” maintains Prof. Stuart Newman, who teaches cell biology and anatomy at the New York Medical College. “If you have pigs with partly human brains you would have animals that might actually have consciousness like a human. It might have human-type needs. We don’t really know.”
Jason Roberts, a bioethicist at Arizona State University echoed Newman’s remarks. “One of the concerns that a lot of people have is that there’s something sacrosanct about what it means to be human expressed in our DNA,” he explained. “And that by inserting that into other animals and giving those other animals potentially some of the capacities of humans that this could be a kind of violation — a kind of, maybe, even a playing God.”
Ross, however, is defending the experiments, assuring his team of scientists “don’t consider that we’re playing God or even close to that.”
“We’re very aware and sensitive to the ethical concerns,” he asserts. “One of the reasons we’re doing this research the way we’re doing it is because we want to provide scientific information to inform those concerns. … We’re just trying to use the technologies that we have developed to improve peoples’ life.”
Ross is currently working with a team of researchers from various biological institutes across the country; the group is currently receiving funding from both the Defense Department and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The NIH is expected soon to announce whether or not it will fund the project.