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Search words: iosaf
Chimera : science is fiction till it is fact
Friday September 23, 2005 13:25 by iosaf
Which is more inethical or objectionable? A human animal? or An animal human?
news / spin / PR from UK biotech.
"Scientists have successfully transplanted human chromosomes into mice, a first that promises to transform medical research into the genetic causes of disease. The mice were genetically engineered to carry a copy of human chromosome 21, a string of about 250 genes. About one in a thousand people are born with an extra copy of the chromosome, a genetic hiccup that causes Down's syndrome"
Those words come from this mornings Guardian. I'm not quoting any more, and before I give you the link, I want you to ponder the idea that any health problem or disability may be caused by a "hiccup".
Depending on how you feel about the use of word, will colour your answers to the long series of ethical questions which such research of "chimeras" ought see asked.
I last reported on this issue in june reminded of its importance by an article which appeared in New scientist.
in which I tried to explain what a "chimera" is as a supplement to "The Sunday Papers geneology edition" [my regular overview article] What follows is slightly updated info on that supplement -
Jamie Shreeve a committed writer on bioethics, and author of the "the Genome War", published a 3,141 word article in the current edition of "New Scientist" in last June 2005 as part of global efforts in all media and sectors of society to provoke a rethink on bioethics after the most worrysome licenses were granted most notably in the UK.
It was an overview of the bio-ethic issues relating to human stem cell research and their implant into non human life forms, or to be technical the creation by scientists of "chimeras" life forms which are neither 100% animal or 100% human.
Scientists want to do this, because it aids them in the understanding of diseases and conditions such as "down's syndrome" or "autism". I used autism as an example in late June, as autistics had then celebrated their first ever "pride day" on June 18th this year.
Now Autism in its most severe form means that sufferers have diminished or lack completely aspects of cognitive neurology which *are generally* considered to be uniquely *human* such as understanding or recognising the intentions or wills of others, lingusitic abilities, & ethical, moral and thus social decision making and reactions/ inter-reactions.
Terrence Deacon a biological anthropologist at the University of California (& a member of the John Hopkins working group the main US biotech lobby) as saying "if embryonic stem cells could be cloned from an autistic individual and transplanted into a monkey brain early in its development, perhaps the mechanisms of the disease could be illuminated by observing differences in brain structure and social behaviour between the autistic monkeys and controls who received normal human stem cells"..."this is science fiction".
Yet as we know science is fiction till it is fact, and many of the laboratory application of stem cell research were fiction ten years ago, and also the then scientific community swore on all that humanism is worth that they would never concede such experiments.
And today's spin from the UK biotech sciences sector is that they have done just that.
Xeno-transplants are common, many a man and woman walking this earth with pig bits in the heart, and they're lucky. But what happens when the genetic material of a stem cell is injected or transplanted into an animal?
When & Where are the factors.
When & where is what the UK Biotech team need to answer.
If the human material (which is capable of growing as any part of the human body thats why they're special) is added to an animal before it has properly developed its own embryo, you get an animal with bits of human dna in its entirety. To put it simply you add a bit of human egg to a mouse egg to study alzheimers (brain) you get a mouse with human bits in the tail, eyes, nose, whiskers and gonads. The last word, "gonad" has caused the various government authorities who opened the door on this research, the USA, UK, Italy (remember the vote in may) Spain, et cetera to issue guidelines that
_at no stage are two chimeras to be allowed to breed_
Here's a US example worth knowing about : the Weissman case. Irving Weissman (one of those biotech scientists who claims anyone opposed to biotech is morally responsibile for disease and suffering) works at Stanford university USA, and is partner of the private biotech company StemCells Inc.
He has spent the last 2 years lobbying for a license to inject human stem cell material (a bit of some girls eggie) the neuronal bit, (the eggie will be a wee bit developed) [kathurlicks would say it as alive] into the brains of a type of mouse that loses its own neurons just before birth. The result would be a mouse with a brain almost completely composed of human neurons. The Canadians have thus out-lawed the implant of human material into unborn animals but it is legal in most other experimenting states.
THE UK TEAM HAVE JUST DONE THIS.
Which is more inethical or objectionable?
A human animal? or An animal human?
to qoute Cynthia Cowen and colleagues at Toronto university writing in a recent issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics journal argued that what is at risk is human dignity
: a being with only some degree of human-ness [sic] imprisoned in an animal body is not free to experience all the cognitive endowments, emotions and moral rights our species uniquely enjoys".
the article I used for basis:-
some of the scientists involved in this "right to experiment campaign"
this has been happening for years, I personally deal with this by saying "reclaim the genome!" and call an immediate moratorium. Already many european states are prepared to call moratoria, and the last opposition to accept this as a manifesto policy were the Swiss social democrats last week.
Indymedia "global" has a biotech section.
visit it here:-
today's other press link :-