Human-Animal Hybrid Ban Goes Too Far

May 10th, 2010 at 3:43 pm | 20 Comments |

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“An anything, a nothing, a fancy, a chimera in my brain, troubles me in prayer”
— John Donne

On April 29, the Arizona legislature approved a new law banning the creation of “chimeras”–human-animal hybrids. The new law prohibits any resident of Arizona from “creating or attempting to create an in vitro human embryo by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm.” Some Democrats are chuckling at what they believe is a legislature that has gone out of its skull, but the issue that is being raised is real.

In recent years, scientists have started to create actual chimeras — hybrid life forms that contain genetic material from both humans and animals. That opens up the disturbing possibility of true human-animal genetic hybrids.

There have already been some early successes. In 1984, scientists at the Institute of Animal Physiology in Cambridge, England created a “geep”–a goat-sheep hybrid.  In 2003, in China, human cells were fused into rabbit embryos, creating human-rabbit hybrids.  (These developed for a few days before being destroyed.) In 2005, at Stanford University, scientists infused human embryonic stem cells into the brains of mouse fetuses, creating mice with human cells in their brains. (Scientists hope to tailor their research to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s.) And in 2007, scientists at the University of Nevada created a sheep, 15% of whose cells were human.

But the infusing of human brain cells into an animal host poses obvious ethical problems.  What if a mouse could be grown whose brain is mostly made of human cells?  Is this a human brain? What if cells from an animal’s brain were implanted into the brain of a developing human embryo? And a baby was born whose brain was partly animal?

Could a human-animal chimera be patented, as have other genetically tailored life forms? Would such a patent be in violation of the 13th Amendment against human slavery? As some religious leaders have pointed out, the problem isn’t just in creating it, but also in discarding it after the scientific experiment is concluded.  Is it sufficiently human that discarding it becomes the taking of human life?

The National Academy of Sciences, has released a draft set of guidelines on chimera research. The NAS guidelines cover the fusing of embryonic stem cells from one species into the blastocyst (an embryo between three and five days old) of another species. The guidelines stipulate that no animal cells should be implanted into a human blastocyst.  They also state that each experiment to implant human cells into an animal blastocyst must get approval from an oversight committee and that no such chimera be allowed to breed.  These guidelines are not (yet) mandatory.

These guidelines, however, go further than what is allowed in some other countries, where human-animal chimeras have been banned. Currently, The American Prospect has endorsed the guidelines.

The prospect of chimeras has alarmed the religious right, which has sought to ban such research outright.  In March 2005, Senator Brownback (R-KS) introduced a bill to prohibit human chimeras.  That goes way too far.

As with stem-cell research, a national policy on chimeras that balances the goals of scientific research against ethical concerns is needed.

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20 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    We already have a human/sheep hybrid on this site. Its OZ Linnane. Baaa, Baaaa, Baaaaa.

  • RedSonja2000

    This is silly. Humans ARE animals. Mice are already approximately 80% genetically identical to humans. All mammals are very similar to each other and humans are mammals. Adding a few cells to make mice more susceptible to human diseases so we can study them is vital to research. This alarm over “animal-human” hybrids is based in ignorance and superstition on on a medieval level.

  • jakester

    Darn, I was hoping to create a Centaur so we can do away with our excessive need for cars, best look for a lab outside of Arizona.

  • GraceMary

    Check out “Pharming” out of the Netherlands – they breed human cows and human goats in Russia – the human goats produce human milk – the milk as been approved by the FDA for sale in the US as of 2009 – the commodification of human animal hybrids and the various applications are stunning.

  • GraceMary

    check this out – human rice hybrid

  • Sean Linnane

    tell you what, I FEEL like some kind of mutant life form right now: I just gave birth to a ten-pound brown Troll . . . . . . . . . and then I wiped my TerryF98 . . .

  • TerryF98

    Sean Linnane a child in a small mans form.

  • Sean Linnane

    gotcha again Troll . . . shee-it . . . baiting a mental midget like you is like shooting fish in a barrel . . .

  • TerryF98


  • RedSonja2000

    we share about 30% of our genes with mustard. We share genes with almost everything alive on this planet. We all descended from a common ancestor, remember? So putting “human genes” into another organism is meaningless. There’s no such thing as “human genes.”

  • thijsvn

    I wish the religious loonies would show the same kind of fanatism against gene patents. But they remain just ignorant enough to be blissfully unaware…

  • ktward

    This alarm over “animal-human” hybrids is based in ignorance and superstition on on a medieval level.

    Said ‘alarmists’ are those mental giants of science, the Religious Right.

    MaryGrace: human goats produce human milk – the milk as been approved by the FDA for sale in the US as of 2009

    Uh, no. A drug is extracted from the transgenic milk. The milk is not sold nor consumed:

    ATryn, is a human antithrombin protein extracted from the milk of genetically engineered goats. The drug has been available in Europe since 2006.

    Manufactured by Massachusetts-based GTC Biotherapeutics, ATryn is an anticoagulant intended to prevent blood clots during surgery or childbirth in patients with a rare blood disorder. The drug is an alternative to antithrombin derived from human plasma, which is in short supply.

  • BoolaBoola

    Before the year 3000, we will be designing our offspring, gene by gene. Nothing can stop this.

  • RedSonja2000

    it would be idiotic to do that, but people are often idiots. It would be nice to eliminate all gene-based diseases, though.

  • Carney

    Too far? Not at all. All such monstrous violations of common-sense decency and human dignity should be banned, and violators given draconian punishments causing a proper chilling effect.

  • stormlordhideticus

    It’s my biggest dream to create my own real Anthromorphic Animals and live on a lone island in the middle of the ocean with no other humans AND I WILL ACHIEVE IT NO MATTER WHAT. I dont care if its banned or forbidden, especially by religion. christianity is Evil.
    The moment i started reading this i knew: This sounds good, but i bet 1000$ that christianity doesnt want that no matter what (not surprised there).

    I am mostly a loner and definetly a misanthrope (the biggest one youve ever seen). Something like ”the law” will not stop me achieve all this.
    I will create hybrids myself someday, and the reason i want them on a lone island is because i want to keep all of them away from human society, the corruption.

    Of course, i want them to be more like animals with a humanoid body and mind. If its a human stuck in an animal body, its not what i want.

    AND USING THEM AS MEDICAL TEST SUBJECTS???? They are creating new kinds of life and thats all they think about….medications….

    Man humanity sucks.

    Of course, this helps me, now i know my dream is possible.

    • babygirl411

      If you have the funding, I have the brain power. IQ of 198 and I USE it. I knew how to build a nuclear reactor at 14 while everyone else was having trouble wrapping their minds around the digital age.

      Sometimes I feel I’m the reincarnation of the late Nikola Tesla……the greatest man to ever live, and my life idol.

      • stormlordhideticus

        nice :D , i love naturally smart and intelligent people…

        i’d find you very useful to me.

        By the way, just out of curiousity, do you have a personal nuclear reactor (even a mini one :D )? (if you can build one) :D

  • babygirl411

    Draconian punishment, punishment so severe as to seem
    excessive for the crime being punished.
    [1913 Webster +PJC]

    What Carney is saying, is that everyone should be killed for even attempting this type of research. Aside from the health benefits, there are people who would love hybrids. But leave it to bible thumpers like Carney to blow things out of proportion.

    Hey Carney, what ever happened to respecting and honoring your elders, and thou shall not kill?

    They went right out the window when christians gained the real power in the world. Believing in an invisible man that has the power to defy physics is just plain insane. Breaking down physics at the most fundamental level would result in total protonic reversal. Light would slow down, time would stop, and the entire universe would be plunged into nothingness for the lack of physics that held it all together. The mere thought of a “god” is pure insanity. The proper term is “creator”. A creator can be anything, and according to physics that creator is a balanced resonant energy field that makes everything in the resonance able to interact.

    Christians need to get a life and stay out of ours. I WANT a hybrid roommate, I think it would be awesome! Especially if he/she could fly!