Margaret Schaut

One more conservative viewpoint on the world at large.

Chimera: Not Just About Embryos, Not by a LONG Shot!


In “Its life, Jim, but not as we’ve known it” the scientists have decided that the biggest issues facing the embryonic research are the same as the pro-life, anti-abortion position: are they people? do they have rights? are we killing innnocent human life? This is ‘so 20th century!’

This is NOT the great danger I am speaking of, despite their continued importance.

In case you’re not up on the latest, chimeric (blending animal and human embryos) research definitions are as follows:

There are four types of human admixed embryos: cytoplasmic hybrids, true hybrids, human transgenic embryos, and human animal chimeras. Cytoplasmic hybrids are created by replacing the nucleus of an animal egg cell with one from a human cell. True hybrids are a combination of human and animal gametes. Human transgenic embryos are made by adding animal mitochondrial and nuclear DNA to human embryos. Finally, human animal chimeras are constructed by introducing animal cells into a human embryo.

They also discuss the concept of eugenics, and understand that these things must be addressed. They ask questions-

Besides debating about human-animal chimeric embryos, Dr. Cameron warned that people should not be distracted from other, perhaps even more important, issues. Eventually, the world will have to deal with eugenics. Should science give people new capabilities? What about machine intelligence? Dr. Cameron believes that issues of those kind are of greater significance, but they are not addressed as much because we are still discussing embryos, which he believes are a 20th century problem.

All of this is important to the debate. However I suggest that it doesn’t cover the real issues, NOT BY A LONG SHOT.

Animal to Human Disease Transmission Hysteria:

In addition to all of the above, recall that we have been inundated with a near-hysteria about the disease called ‘bird flu.’ We have spent BILLIONS worldwide trying to stamp out bird flu where ever it shows up, in order to prevent that disease from leaping from animal to human. A few humans have died, yes, but only a very few.

This ‘terror’ of an animal disease making that great leap into the human population has increased big brother by giving the USDA, FDA and Department of Homeland Security FAR MORE POWER to deal with animal populations, radio chip them, put resistant farmers like the Amish out of business, all in an effort to prevent bird flu and mad cow disease from creeping into the human population.

An Avenue Like No Other!

Animal/human hybrids will provide a direct avenue by which diseases that were formerly ONLY in animals will be able to enter the human population. Ebola virus and Marsburg’s disease were thought to be only in animals, and they are horrible diseases that have made the leap to the human population, without the benefit of blending human and animal dna. Think how fast it would spread if it infected a creature who is both animal AND human and the means to infect the entire human population were gained by the viruses or bacteria?

The ‘Art and Science of Unintended Consequences’:

This unintended consequence doesn’t even show up in the discussions, no matter how many scientists are present!

Another considerations which it is NOT too soon to consider- once these creatures grow, they will want to reproduce. They will be able to reproduce with animals OR with humans. Unless they are distinctly MARKED, or animal features are prominent on the creature, you will not be able to tell if your son or daughter is dating someone who is part rat, part lizard, part spider, part cow.

Once reproduction begins, and these forms of humanoids are having ‘litters’, there will be NO STOPPING that genetic strain through the human population.

You can be sure that if these creatures become pregnant THEY WILL NOT ABORT THEIR YOUNG, and since they are unlikely to have a conscience (ONLY a human trait and a rare one anymore at that) other than what animals have, their ‘natural’ traits will include their ferocity and instinct for survival, they will not permit ANYONE to endanger their young.

Mad science is FULL of unintended consequences. The nanites that destroy sock odors are making their way into the environment, doing their micro-bot damage to whatever wildlife they come in contact with. Genetically modified food is a primary suspect in the death of butterflies, honey bees and in Morgellon’s disease.

Animal/human hybrid chimeras are one more example of reckless, insane science that pushes its way forward despite ALL concerns that are unique to HUMANITY, despite the issues of eugenics that so destroyed Europe through Hitler, and created a world war, despite all the lessons humanity has ‘learned.’ They say the great minds stood on the shoulders of those who came before. That learning includes learning from our history, our philosophy, or experience.

We are throwing away critical information in the interests of … what?

Can we afford these unintended consequences? If someone were to make a ‘eugenic’ type of decision for you or your family- would you or your family member survive that? What if your dna makeup shows a tendency to downs syndrome, to cancer, to autism? Would eugenicists permit your dna line to continue?

If your family were infected by an animal disease for which there were no cure, because of this science, would you think it was worth it?

How many people need to die before we decide the price is too high?

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10 Comments»

  Diane wrote @

This is too hideous for words. Science has absolutely gone mad.

  Joshua wrote @

I believe that these animal-human chimeras are being created for eventual use as stem cell therapies, and to avoid needing women to donate eggs.

Now, because this technology could save lives and do so without the pain caused by current methods, there needs to be a very high probability of a risk to outweigh these benefits. In other words, if you’re going to deny people the therapies that could result, you better have a damn good reason for it.

By the way, your part about human-animal chimeras not having a conscience and acting inhuman is total nonsense. The current chimeras produced have only mitochondrial DNA from animals, so they would be NO different in behaviour than any other person. And even if people do start to have, say, 20% of their DNA from animals, it does not necessarily mean that their conscience will be affected.

  Margaret wrote @

Thanks, Joshua, for commenting. Yes, we need damn good reasons to stop or limit such ‘probability therapies’ as NOTHING has been proven to work so far, and in my estimation the entire post is about just that- there are DAMN GOOD reasons for exercising extreme caution before pursuing these.

You think that my statements about the consciences of these creatures is pure nonsense, and in the world of ‘there is no God’, yes, it sounds like nonsense. However, not all of us subscribe to the wholly unspiritual, wholly carnal nature of mankind, and therefore the issue of a conscience, and whether it resides in animals or not, is a spiritual matter.

It is provable, and observable, that there is a HUGE difference between human beings and animals, no matter how many similarities there are in their dna and genetic structure. Even children can see these things without instruction.

One of the greatest differences in human beings over animals is a conscience, whether formed or unformed, whether formed badly or formed well.

I say that before we tamper with what it means to be human, we had better have a DAMN GOOD REASON to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’.

The richest man I ever knew said his secret was this and only this: “never risk more than you can AFFORD to lose.”

These therapies, entered into blindly and with utter disregard about what we KNOW to be true about Man and Nature, risks far, far more than we can afford to lose.

  Joshua wrote @

So, if a person receives a pig’s heart in a transplant, are they no longer human? If a diabetic takes insulin isolated from pigs are they no longer human? Well, both of those sorts of people already exist. Would there be a difference if a child was born with a heart like that of a pig, or born with insulin resembling that of a pig?

I suggest your definition of ‘human’ relies to much on either the unprovable ‘spiritual’ side of things, or some ‘gut’ feeling of revulsion, neither of which have any part in deciding the direction of scientific research. If a conscience is a physical thing (and the fact that physical actions like drug-taking and brain injuries can affect it suggests that it is), then it is within the realm of science. And as far as the scientific evidence suggests, as long as we do not modify those genes that affect the brain, these chimeras will certainly be just as human, where it counts, as you or I.

I’m sorry, but I do not feel that we should be removing options, ones that could save lives, from the table just because of your superstitions.

  Margaret wrote @

Joshua, it is certainly clear that you have read into it what you want to.

There is no disputing, it is SCIENTIFIC FACT, that animal diseases through biological processes, do indeed make that leap to infecting human populations on some occasions, marsburg and ebola viruses being only two examples.

There have been, through history, such instances and the flu epidemic earlier this century which killed millions was one such disease.

The reality of this process is why we have been forced to spend so much money to prevent SARS and Bird Flu, Mad Cow disease and Bovine Tuberculosis, from spreading wherever it is found, because when it makes that leap from animal to human, it is extremely deadly to human life.

Blending animal and human dna provides a direct conduit for animal diseases to move into the human population, a thing our public health agencies of governments all over the world have been fighting.

The potential death toll from this danger is so great that providing the potential for a few cures of fewer diseases is penny-wise but pound foolish.

As to the rest of your argument, you are right provided that God does NOT exist and worship of God is nothing more than superstition.

I and many others disagree.

One day we will ALL know who is right on that matter and who is not.

  Joshua wrote @

Viruses and bacteria do not enter the body, nor the cell, by the DNA. True, some of the proteins made by the DNA may allow animal viruses to enter human cells (on the other hand, it may prevent human viruses from entering – it could cure AIDS).

As for the religious part, well that’s all a moot point for laws are set in secular democracies, where personal beliefs should not enter into to it. Plus, maybe this is what the god (or gods) want us to do? I’m sure there are many who believe in God and is happy with the research into chimeras.

Why, I blogged about one Reverent Alan Billing who spoke favourably of this research (see my blog post here: http://hplusbiopolitics.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/alan-billing-on-playing-god/)

  Margaret wrote @

The composite of cells is determined by the dna therefore your argument is not based in science fact. The types of cells created based on dna determines what diseases can enter which cells- the dna itself does nothing else.

Using a pig heart in a transplant operation does not CHANGE THE STRUCTURE OF A PERSON’S CELLS and therefore is NOT what this discussion is about.

Science FACT is still fact, despite the personal beliefs of anyone- gravity is gravity whether a person believes in it or not. Secular democracies still cannot change science FACT despite beliefs. After calling the belief in the existence of God a superstition, you mention some reverend that thinks this is a good idea? I know SCIENTISTS who are also priests and recognized as EXPERTS the world over, who find this ‘scientific approach’ to blending animal/humans to be extremely problematic.

Adult stem cells have so far been the only stem cells that have actually yielded any successful results.

It simply doesn’t change the very grave danger of animal to human transmission of incurable diseases.

THAT will happen, based on science FACT, no matter whether a person believes in God or not, whether they believe in the Constitution of the United States or not, whether they believe in space aliens or not.

  Joshua wrote @

You are right that DNA does ultimately determine the cellular structure, so changing DNA could lead to altered viral binding ability (either making it harder or easier). As an example, some AIDS patients have received bone marrow from baboons because baboons do not get AIDS.

Xenotransplant recipients can still catch animal diseases, though they only affect the xenograft (transplanted tissue). The risk of animal diseases spreading to humans is still a risk in xenotransplantation (it is for that reason that my country, Australia, has a moratorium on such procedures). So, I think it is entirely relevant, because it is the same risk as with chimeras – and it is something that the FDA is cautious about, but there are still no laws against it in the USA (that I know of).

Adult stem cells have been the only ones to work in clinical trials, because they have been the only ones to actually be in clinical trials (although I believe they are used clinically in India). Embryonic stem cells have shown promise in animal models (curing such things as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart disease and diabetes). There is good reason to believe that the embryonic stem cells may soon save human lives too.

To conclude, I acknowledge the risk is there, but considering the potential benefits as well, I do not think there is anything wrong with proceeding, cautiously, towards perfecting human-animal chimeras.

  Margaret wrote @

Access to embryonic stem cells is very easy to acquire without destroying or altering embryos themselves, they can be had from cord blood, and there is nothing wrong with using materials gained without taking life to seek out ways to save life.

Stem cells are a very different issue than female eggs, a harvesting that is occurring with aborted females who’s ovaries are removed, developed, and used in such experiments.

Therefore, an unborn baby girl who was slaughtered before she even took her own first breath, could actually be a mother to some combination of animal/human whether she herself would have ‘chosen’ this or not.

Death itself is ‘the great equalizer’ – all this science to ‘save lives’ is in the hands of the ones who can pay for it. The wealthy have distributed credit and money to those whom THEY choose, the movement toward human alteration and ‘life saving’ procedures is squarely in the hands of those same people. Imagine Stalin or Hitler with the power to do the selective eugenics using these sciences! Imagine them building an army of chimera, without conscience or morals, killing as easily as animals do, with the particular strengths and abilities of different life forms, all with the intelligence of humans! Word has it that China is pursuing these technologies with exactly those ends in mind, though they may be very far from realizing that goal.

Nature’s way is that death comes to all. It equalizes everyone, commoner and dictator alike and, in the case of a Stalin or Chairman Mao, forces a limit on the damage they can ultimately do.

Changing the very structure of cells provides the vehicle for horrendous diseases to infect the human population, for human diseases to infect the animal populations, but it has to be said that YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS WITHOUT ALSO CHANGING THE BEING THAT GROWS FROM THEM.

Nature itself prevents this from occurring by the failure of reproduction between differing species.

There is a REASON nature has done so and I suggest we ignore that at the peril of every living creature on the planet.

  Joshua wrote @

Actually, it is most likely that the eggs will come from animals (and not humans), but the nucleus will be changed for a human nucleus (at least, those are the only current animal-human chimeric embryos that I’m aware of).

As for making people who can kill without a conscience, I don’t think we need any animal DNA for that. There are already some human sociopaths who do not feel bad about murder – using their DNA would surely be easier than trying to find an animal equivalent.

There may be a reason nature prevents cross-breeding (although I don’t think there is), but there may be an equally good reason for we humans to develop this technology. Since humans developed fire, we’ve been controlling nature – one could say that controlling nature is only natural.


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