A pig with a human brain

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  But now, reports Timothy Willard,  the National Institute for Health has rescinded the ban.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.

[Read more…]

“Editing” embryos

Researchers are crossing the line into direct “editing” of human embryos, amounting to genetically modifying human beings.

Some of those who don’t approve of genetically modifying vegetables may not mind doing the same thing to babies.  But the new research is stirring up controversy in the scientific community. [Read more…]

Humanized mice

Researchers have injected brain cells from human fetuses into baby mice, giving them brains that are half human.  Those “humanized mice” are much more intelligent than regular mice.  Read the report, which is breezily free of moral judgment, and contemplate just how many things are wrong with this. [Read more…]

Three-parent children

The FDA is trying to decide whether or not to approve a procedure that give a child three biological parents.  “Defective” DNA in a mother’s egg would be replaced by “good” DNA from a second woman, then fertilized, giving the child three parents and eliminating certain inherited diseases.

A great technology to ease human suffering, or a grotesque violation of nature?  Or both?  What should the FDA decide? [Read more…]

In vitro meat

Researchers in London served the first hamburger patty that came not from an animal but from genetic engineering.  Those who sampled it which consisted of protein generated from cattle stem cells, said that it tasted “almost like meat.”  Yum, yum.

But many people are heralding the development as the beginning of a new era in food.  No more need we kill animals.  No more will livestock operations pollute the land.  We will be able to generate cheap food for all.   Read about it after the jump, whereupon we will consider the implications. [Read more…]

Heather has three biological parents

Great Britain has approved a in-vitro-fertilization technique that conceives babies using genetic material from three different parents.  (If I’m sorting it out correctly, it will take one father and two different mothers, with the destruction of one embryo being used for spare parts.) [Read more…]


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