Friday, January 28, 2005

This Just Seems Very Wrong

Yesterday I came across something via slashdot that was very disturbing. National Geographic has an article about doctors using stem cells to fuse DNA of humans with animals thus creating different hybrid human-animals known as chimeras (taken from Greek mythology of an animal that has a lion's head, goat's body, and a serpent's tail).

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Scientists feel that, the more human-like the animal, the better research model it makes for testing drugs or possibly growing "spare parts," such as livers, to transplant into humans.

Watching how human cells mature and interact in a living creature may also lead to the discoveries of new medical treatments.

While I understand the potential benefits, this of course introduces a plethora of ethical dilemmas. What are the limits? How human is human? At what point do we grant rights? It's definitely something that's going to be at the forefront of debates very soon.