The ethical issues involved in combining human DNA with animal DNA are so great–and so obvious–that the federal government at first refused to fund those kinds of experiments. But now, reports Timothy Willard, the National Institute for Health has rescinded the ban.
Willard reports on the kind of experimentation your tax dollars will be going towards: A researcher from the University of California, Davis, that is planning to inject human embryonic stem cells into a pig embryo. The fetus will then be implanted into the womb of a pig, who will give birth to the human/pig organism (known as a “chimera” for the mythological monsters who are combinations of various animals).
The researcher says he is doing this for the universal excuse of some day curing disease and making more compatible organs to transplant. But he openly acknowledges what can go wrong.
Since he can’t really control what those human stem cells might turn into, if two adult chimeras mate, the result might be a a human baby with a pig as his or her parents. Or we might have a pig with a human brain and human consciousness.
But don’t worry, he says. If anything goes wrong, he will abort the fetus. This is apparently what convinced the NIH that the experiments can be ethical.