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Is it Immoral to Create Chimeras?

Scientists are producing chimeras?creatures that are parthuman and part animal. A "chimera" originally referred to amonster in Greek mythology with a lion's head, goat's body,and snake's tail. Now that this is possible, the questionbecomes: Is it moral?

Maryann Mott writes in National Geographic News that in2003, Chinese scientists successfully fused human cells withrabbit eggs. The embryos were the first human-animalchimeras ever successfully created and were allowed todevelop for several days in a laboratory dish before theresearchers destroyed them.

In 2004, researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs withhuman blood flowing through their bodies.

Why do it? One reason is to create stem cells. Another isthat the more humanlike an animal is, the better it is fortesting drugs. The National Academy of Sciences will soonpresent voluntary ethical guidelines for researchers whowant to create these creatures.

A chimera is a mixture of two or more species in one body.Normal human beings become chimeras when they receive, forinstance, a heart valve from a cow or a pig?an operationthat is done fairly often. But these new creations seem tocross the line into a moral no man's land.

Activist Jeremy Rifkin thinks animals have the right toexist without being crossed with another species, and saysscientists "have now gone over the edge." Ethicist DavidMagnus worries about how chimeras will be used. One examplehe gives is that mice can be bioengineered to produced bothhuman sperm and eggs, meaning that a human embryo could becreated that would have as his parents?two mice.

Last year Canada passed a law banning the creation ofchimeras, but biologist Irv Weissman doesn't think weshould pass such a law here because it would be "stoppingresearch that would save human lives." He plans to createmice with human brains.

Would mice with human brains still haveintuition?Subscribers: Youcan still listen to this wonderful interview!

Photo Credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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