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Human Animal Hybrid Research: What Is A Chimera?

1576 words - 6 pages

The word “chimera” is that usually only related to mythology. However, it can also be used to describe a type of research that combines organisms composed of genetic material (usually cellular) from two distinct species (Eberl & Ballard, 2009). This term can be applied to research using genetic material from humans and animals. With this kind of human-animal hybrid research, scientists are able to perform experiments using things like human embryonic stem cells without injury to people or animals. There is great debate, though, that this kind of research will lead to scientists adding to the development of new species of animals capable of more human characteristics, such as moral thinking, and that these scientists are “playing God.” With careful regulation, scientists should be allowed to continue to perform experiments on human-animal chimeras to be able to advance in knowledge about HIV research, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases.
Background
Definitions
Chimera. The word originally comes from that of Greek mythology and describes an animal that is a combination of a lion, a serpent, and a goat (Sherringham, 2008). Sherringham (2008) describes the present-day definition of how it relates to science and research as organisms “comprised of at least two genetically distinct populations of cells originating from independent embryos,” but the combined genetics are not a result of sexual reproduction (Sherringham, 2008, p. 767). The word chimera can also be used to refer “to a biological entity composed of genetic material from members of two distinct species” (Eberl & Ballard, 2009, p. 471).
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). These “stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro […] and then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2010).
Human-animal hybrid embryos. “[…] embryos created using a human egg and the sperm of an animal, or an animal egg and a human sperm or by combining a pro-nucleus of an animal with a human pro-nucleus” (Laing, 2009, p. 71).
Pro-nucleus. “The haploid nucleus of a sperm or egg before fusion of the nuclei in fertilization” (Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries (Ed.), 2003).
Blastocyst. “A thin-walled hollow structure in early embryonic development that contains a cluster of cells called the inner cell mass from which the embryo arises” (MedicineNet, Inc., 2012).
Policy
According to Streiffer (2010), recommendations are being made regarding public policy of chimera research, even though it is a fairly new topic that has not yet yielded much discussion. He said that the National Academies (a group of institutions formed in 1863 that provide expert advice regarding research, science, medicine, and engineering [National Academy of Sciences, 2014]) is making recommendations against research in which hESCs are combined with primate blastocysts. Streiffer...

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