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Human-Animal Hybrids

Posted September 15, 2007 10:27 AM by Sharkles

Animals and humans have co-existed with each other for millions of years. Your own pets have stood by you in good times, bad times, sickness, and in health. But what if you had known all along that your pet could hold the secret to better health—and maybe even save your life?

Ever since Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1997, stem cell research has multiplied like so much binary fission. Although stem cell research is banned in the United States, it is permitted in the United Kingdom (UK) it is permitted under licensure from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). That's "Fertilization with a "z" for us American spellers.

In 2006, HFEA received applications from teams at Kings' College London and Newcastle University who wanted to insert human genetic material into animal eggs to create an embryo that would produce stem cells. If you're asking yourself "Why would they want to do that", the answer is simple. Scientists believe that studying stem cells will help them to understand diseases and create new therapies for conditions such Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

One problem with this approach is that there is a very limited supply of human eggs available. Although some women donate eggs, the process can be physically demanding and dangerous for the donor. To work around this shortage, some researchers have suggested using animal eggs as replacements.

Using animal eggs in such a way would create a cytoplasmic hybrid embryos—embryos that are created with animal eggs using cell nuclear replacement (CNR). Nuclear cell replacement removes the genetic material from the egg (in this case, the animal egg) and replaced with a nucleus containing genetic information from a donor cell (in this case, a human cell).

This equation may seem like it would equal a human cell, but it doesn't. Although the animal DNA has been removed, the mitochondria remain. Because the mitochondria contain traces of animal DNA, a hybrid or chimera embryo is formed. (The actual process of creating hybrid embryos is begun post-fertilization.) The embryos are grown for five to six days in a laboratory setting. After the growth period, the stem cells are removed from the embryo, thereby destroying it.

The creation of animal-human hybrids is a topic of great debate, and one that raises both political and social concerns. In December of 2006 the British government proposed a revision of the Human Ferilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act, a statute which was passed in 1990, to clarify their position on animal-human hybrids and prohibit further research. In March of 2007, however, the House of Commons Science and Technology committee published a paper in which concluded by saying that it wouldn't support a ban on such research since it would "undermine the UK's leading position in stem cell research and the international reputation of science in the UK". The paper also expressed concern that a ban on hybrid research would only encourage people to take their research out of the UK. For now, HFEA has held-off on making a decision about moving forward with this research.

Although stem cell research is permitted in the United Kingdom, some practices are outlawed. For example, creating a true hybrid embryo for non-scientific purposes and attempting to insert an animal-human embryo into a woman are illegal.

Social concerns about these animal-human hybrids vary from disgust at the idea to questions about the status of an embryo as a human being. Naturally, people also want to know "what would be next" if this idea were to go forward. There are also general objections to the mixing of DNA. Some people even claim that these "freak" embryos would do nothing more than to prove that it can be done.

Whether this research will be successful or not remains unknown. HFEA has said that it would decide the matter in autumn of 2007, so stayed tuned. Personally, I think that this is an interesting proposal, and one about which I'm anxious to know the outcome. Here are my questions:

  • It's said that there would be less than 1% animal DNA in these hybrids, isn't that about less that the difference between humans and chimpanzees? (I believe we share 98% percent of our DNA with them).
  • What would happen if it wasn't illegal to let an embryo mature?
  • Would the embryo eventually die, or would a hybrid be able to grow into a functioning form or animal-human?

What do you think and what do you want to know?

Resources:
http://www.infowars.com/articles/brave_new_world/chimera.htm
http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/HFEA_Final.pdf
http://www.hfea.gov.uk/en/1517.html
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/272/272i.pdf

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Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - Scapolie, new member.

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#1

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

09/15/2007 5:24 AM

This science is the most unethical thing I have ever heard of! We can be damn well sure that somebody is going to let such an embryo live one day, and the consequencies are too hellish to contemplate. I can understand that we need to help people who suffer from alzheimers and such, but I do not believe this is the right way to go about it. In every science there is the one person who decides to go just that one step further, and what would that eventual being be, human or animal? Even the experts say that these cells are not 100% human, and to be a complete human all the living cells within a human being have to be human, not 99.9%. This does not bode well for the human race! Spencer.

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#2

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

09/15/2007 10:42 AM

It's difficult to do a soul search on this matters, hence the question in itself it's scarry. The humans can have strange reactions, e.g. it wasn't long ago that just the color of the skin would make one treat another human worse than one's own pet. Also, there are people born with with unbelievable diformities, which are treated with care rather than disgust. We, humans, while we wonder how inteligent the chimps or dolphins can be at the same time we could kill each other mercilessly for a hand of glittering rocks (the blood dimonds).

Probably, one would love such hybrid if it smelled as one's kin (the "chemism" that's so much involved in infatuation, father's recognition of it's own offsprings etc.). Technically, most of the hybrids won't survive more than one generation, most of the hybrids being sterile although viable and healthy (e.g. horse and donkey). Likely, the risk it's minimal. In the end what matters is to perpetuate the human values, not necessarily the color of the skin, the shape of the head or the length of the nose, isn't it (open to debate)?

Should we first stop hurting each other and then start hybridizing the human species ? The other way around ? At the same time ?

This message is not intended to offend anyones feelings, these are delicate matters under debate.

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#3

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

09/15/2007 10:49 AM

I agree that all we do in scientific research should be governed by ethical and moral rules. However, why draw such a line between humans and animals? Humans are also animals from biological point of view. Inside us and on our skin there are lots of non-human micro-organisms which are doing a great job. Overall, all living creatures on Earth are interacting at some point. Every time we forget to place correctly our species in the whole picture we show arrogance and superiority. We should be very humble in our study of life - human or non-human - as what we know is infinitely small compared to what we don't know. We also have a lot to learn from other species, including social behavior.

What I'll never understand is where is coming from this "appetite" for destroying this planet. An Earth having just one form of life (i.e. human) and a few other species enslaved by humans (for food, energy, etc.) will not be livable any more!

This topic makes me think of Greek Mythology. Centaurus and other creatures (from other old cultures too) are human-animal hybrids! Did ancient civilizations knew and did something we don't?

The ethics in scientific research is all about doing anything our imagination allow for gaining more knowledge but severely restricted to what is not harming us, other species and the environment - in one word, our planet.

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Guru
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#4

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

09/15/2007 2:27 PM

Of course there is the rumoured human/ape cross in existence...but this is more likely a naturally occurring 'bald' ape, in the same way as there are rare 'hairy' humans, and other natural deformities like hermaphrodites. As a cat-human hybrid I feel there are enough wonders in the natural world for us to be getting on with without creating new ones...there is plenty of undiscovered & un investigated genetic material in the rain forrests without us messing up what already exists.

Prrmp ftzzzz prrrrr

Del

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Guru
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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

09/16/2007 6:04 AM

Hi Del. I agree with you, but I must warn you that one of the tasks that I have had since retiring is shooting feral cats on land that is protected because of it's endangered animal specis. So watch out! Spencer.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

09/16/2007 6:05 AM

!

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Guru

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#7

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

11/17/2007 5:29 PM

We predict a world of future with cyborgs , machine run , but when talk of human animal cross breed suppose coined "humal" with super powers of specific mammal which are inteded for there survival of evolutions like , bat , cat , chimpanzees , dolphines , tigers , kangaroo , pythones , eagles , polar bears ,cheetas, to say few . but it will enrich un controled mutations if such humals start reproducing to produce offsprings making pure breed of humans near to extinct , now that can be debatible about intelligency these creatures will posses to challenge normal people . Will the brain be same of any thinking normal human or it will be of say physically disabled human or intelligent animal say dog / dolphin...........

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Human-Animal Hybrids

11/18/2007 6:38 AM

Hi vikas.

I agree with you. If scientists creat a human-animal hybrid what do we do with this chimera, how do we treat it, or is it a him or her? We should not be messing about with nature, which is one of the reasons why I will never eat GM foods!!!

Spencer.

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