There is a disturbing trend where scientists with pulled government funding are sourcing their financial support from other agencies. Where even the government is saying “no” to particular DNA and stem cell research, communities of researchers are still moving forward with programs that are, well, quiet the ethical worry.
MIT Technology Review first published this reality. In their report they document the growing move towards ignoring peers in order to prove them wrong. It’s an echo of past times: I believe I am advancing the species therefore I am right in my actions…Hitler’s scientific experiments 101 lessons on Jews, Gypsies and anyone else who didn’t fit his human race criteria.
This time, the research is a little more disturbing. Research involving the God-playing making of “human-animal chimeras,” saw a reversal of policy in the United States almost unprecedented. The National Institutes of Health had announced that until scientific and social implications were fully reviewed, then development of these chimeras couldn’t be supported. “They will not fund” such research, the NIH states.
The debate surrounds the concept of blurring the lines between humans and animals. By altering DNA, human tissue is grown inside pigs and sheep with an end goal of creating and harvesting organs needed for human recipients.
Since the imposed funding ban, some U.S. research centers have still moved ahead with their plans. Private companies such as California’s State Stem-cell Agency, and the U.S. military ($1.4 million) have supplied the funds to propel such studies.
The NIH’s concern that the animal’s “cognitive state” could be affected as a result of human brain cells, isn’t so far-fetched. The unpublished research of such procedures where pig-human and sheep-human pregnancies have been induced by science, was discussed openly at a presentation made at NIH’s Maryland campus.
“We are not near the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast,” NIH ethicist David Resnik discussed. “The specter of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming ‘I want to get out’ would be very troubling to people.”
The connotation of “chimera” usually forms as “monster.” But derived from Greek mythology, the word means part lion, goat and snake. Creating a chimera, in this instance, is to discover an end product to produce vital organs for desperately ill people.
“My view is that the contribution of human cells is going to be minimal, maybe 3 percent, maybe 5 percent,” says Pablo Ross, a veterinarian and developmental biologist at the University of California. “But what if they contributed to 100 percent of the brain? What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It’s something that we don’t expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can’t rule it out.”
Cutting edge technology doesn’t make it right. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Funding has been pulled for a reason. It’s an age old pearl of wisdom.
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