When I went to high school utopian and dystopian novels were considered must reading in social studies class. And this reminded me of Aldous Huxely's brilliant, and underappreciated, dystopian society of Brave New World.
The English have decided that they will allow their scientists to combine human genes with animal genes to make embryos.
The embryos will not be a few human genes in an animal embryo, or a few animal genes in a human embryo, but a full blown merger of animal eggs and bird eggs to form a “chimera”, a mixed animal human being.
While the author, who opposes this on moral grounds, refers to H.G. Wells, Island of Dr. Moreau, and the more obscure Cordwainer Smith! Whom I also read while attending high school. Checking on his bio, I discover another influence on my theory of conspiratology.
Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.
Writers ranging from ancient Greek and Hindu poets to novelist Michael Crichton have all envisioned the fictional possibility of creating human-animal hybrids. The notion of "chimeras" was particularly horrifying to H. G. Wells, author of "The Island of Dr. Moreau."
But over the past two years, the subject has quietly made its way into scientific journals. Unbeknownst to most Americans, today the creation of human-animal chimeras represents a valuable experimental tool that could revolutionize science and medicine.
However, the creation of these hybrid organisms also raises ethical questions: What rights should these organisms possess?
Great Britain has already begun to take up the question; an official government report released last month backed the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos).
One of the main forces driving research in this area is the widespread interest in human embryonic stem cells. In vitro experiments suggest that these cells can differentiate into any cell type in the body, but whether they would retain that potential if implanted in an actual human body is not yet clear.
A recent article (subscription required) in the NY Times Science section discusses the role of interspecies chimeras in biomedical research. They point out the chimeric organisms are nothing new:“Biologists have been generating chimeras for years, though until now of a generally bland variety. If you mix the embryonic cells of a black mouse and a white mouse, you get a patchwork mouse, in which the cells from the two donors contribute to the coat and to tissues throughout the body. Cells can also be added at a later stage to specific organs; people who carry pig heart valves are, at least technically, chimeric.”Regardless of the minimal ethical controversy amongst biologists, new research using other animals (e.g., pigs) to harvest human organs derived from progenitor cells has the potential to "gross out" most Americans. In essence, it's analogous to watching a horror film with a mad scientist manipulating the natural order for some (often undefined) egomaniacal purpose.The Stranger Within
New Scientist vol 180 issue 2421 - 15 November 2003, page 34
Human chimeras were once thought to be so rare as to be just a curiosity.
But there's a little bit of someone else in all of us, says Claire
Ainsworth, and sometimes much more...
EXPLAIN this. You are a doctor and one of your patients, a 52-year- old
woman, comes to see you, very upset. Tests have revealed something
unbelievable about two of her three grown-up sons. Although
she conceived them naturally with her husband, who is definitely
their father, the tests say she isn't their biological mother.
Somehow she has given birth to somebody else's children.
This isn't a trick question - it's a genuine case that Margot Kruskall, a
doctor at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston,
Massachusetts, was faced with five years ago. The patient, who we will
call Jane, needed a kidney transplant, and so her family underwent blood
tests to see if any of them would make a suitable donor. When the results
came back, Jane was hoping for good news.
Instead she received a hammer blow. The letter told her outright that
two of her three sons could not be hers. What was going on?
It took Kruskall and her team two years to crack the riddle. In the end
they discovered that Jane is a chimera, a mixture of two individuals -
non-identical twin sisters - who fused in the womb and grew into a single
body. Some parts of her are derived from one twin, others from the other.
It seems bizarre that this can happen at all, but Jane's is not an
isolated case. Around 30 similar instances of chimerism have been
reported, and there are probably many more out there who will never
discover their unusual origins.
Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
stem cell, cloning, homonuclus, Catholic, bio-ethics, genome, Paracelsus, Alchemy, science,
mutants, evolution, brave new world, chimera, medical ethics
history of science
philosophy of science