Dr Frankensteins at Work, Literally By Brian Simpson
Here is an alarming case of scientists, real Dr Frankensteins, playing God, this time creating hybrid monkey-human embryos. As always, the benefit is held out of curing some dreaded disease, or performing some medical miracle, this time, to enable organs to be produced for people needing organ transplants. Oh, who could object to that! But, as always this is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to human-animal hybrids, and a new race of slaves. We have too many slaves already.
“In a move that some scientists say raises serious ethical questions, researchers have for the first time embryos that are a hybrid of human and monkey cells.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratories at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, says that the research could one day slash waiting lists of organ transplants.
"The demand for that is much higher than the supply," he says.
Writing the scientific journal Cell, he describes how his team injected 25 iPS, or induced pluripotent stem cells, from humans into a number of macaque monkey embryos.
Over 100 of the embryos remained viable, enabling the scientists to study how the different types of cells interacted.
"Our goal is not to generate any new organism, any monster," Belmonte stressed.
"And we are not doing anything like that. We are trying to understand how cells from different organisms communicate with one another.
"This knowledge will allow us to go back now and try to re-engineer these pathways that are successful for allowing appropriate development of human cells in these other animals," he added.
"We are very, very excited."
However, Professor Julian Savulescu, a director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and co-director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford, told Irish News that the research "opens Pandora’s box to human-nonhuman chimaeras".
Chimaeras are creatures that retain the properties of two distinct species. In May last year, researchers deliberately created a human-mouse chimaera in order to study deep questions about disease and ageing.
Another team, working in China, has engineered embryos that were pig-monkey hybrids.
But work of this kind raises serious ethical questions. Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University's Baker Institute, says the work blurs the line between what is and isn't human.
But, that is what this line of research is all about, blurring the line between human and non-human, then eliminating it totally.