Monday, November 19, 2007

Experiments on Human/Animal Hybrid Stem Cells

Hybrid Test Drive
Advances in stem-cell technology cheer and alarm ethics watchers.
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted 11/16/2007 08:42AM

While scientists in the U.S. hailed sperm cells as a possible alternative to embryonic stem cells, regulators in Great Britain became the first to approve inter-species experimentation.

The U.K.'s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which reports to the Department of Health, ruled in September that there was no "fundamental reason" not to use animals as egg donors for the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos. Currently, researchers depend on human embryos from fertilization clinics.

Hybrid embryos are created by scraping an animal's DNA out of its egg and inserting a nucleus from a human cell. Researchers don't know yet if hybrid embryos will display the developmental flexibility that human embryos do. "But the odds are high," said William B. Neaves, president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "It's worth trying."

The U.K. has not legalized the implantation of hybrid embryos, which are 99.9 percent human and 0.1 percent animal, into wombs. Still, development of a human-animal chimera should worry everyone who values human life, said Nigel Cameron, president of the Institute on Biotechnology & the Human Future.

"This is a wake-up call that really does catch people's moral imagination," he said. "The whole notion of manufacturing human or semi-human life for experimentation and destruction goes to the core of human dignity."

I wonder what this does to our theological understanding of imago dei or image of God. While obviously our physical bodies do not truly reflect God's for he is spirit. Yet, we are said to be created in his image. Does this give us the right to mess with our human DNA? What if a chimera (human and animal DNA) is brought to term? Is it/he/she a human being or an animal?
This are disturbing thoughts as we struggle to balance the benefit of stem cell research against the sanctity of human life.




Blogger Paul Long said...

I find the possible theological implications of this expermiment causes my brains to overload ...

Almost like a scene from a fantasy comic book story line ...

Closer to home (after watching a CSI Miami episode last week) ... do identical twins really have the same DNA? Almost seems to mean that in a way, twins are sort of .. clones....

4:49 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

hi Paul,

Identical twins are biological clones. This is because they are derived from the same fertilised ovum and the same genetic material. So there is some truth in the CSI episode.

This begs an interesting question. Does twins have one or two souls? If two souls, then are they identical? What do you think?

4:50 PM  
Blogger Paul Long said...

Like I mentioned before ... all this is causing my brain to overload - overheat, crash!!!

Honestly am confused. But for now I think 2 souls but not identical as what also makes us unique is not our experiences and our attitudes, convictions etc

Cool CSI episode where the team nailed the triplet who committed the crime based on the anitbodies one triplet had in her blood because of a trip to S. America. This made her blood slighly different...

6:49 PM  

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