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Of Mice, Men, Monkeys, And Pigs. The Un-Ethics Of Chimeric Research

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In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fearsome, fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a dragon’s tail. She terrorized the Lycians until felled by Pegasus, the winged horse. The Chimeric beast lives on in people’s imaginations, her name becoming synonymous with grotesque monsters combining bodily parts from different beings. It also lives on in science. Today, the chimeric manifestation that excites most horror is animal-human concoctions ostensibly created for research. One particularly troubling experiment was reported recently in Cell. This one involved inserting human stem cells into 132 macaque embryos. No clear hypothesis or research objectives were articulated other than creating successful monkey-human organisms. The researchers defended the study, claiming “it would help researchers gain a clearer understanding of molecular pathways, allowing for them to continue to improve the integration of human cells into more suitable hosts…” According to the CDC, macaques can be dangerous, with the majority of macaques infected with the Herpes B virus. In fact, so dangerous are these animals that they are barred from import – except for experimental use. “…the consequences of symptomatic infection may be severe. Viral infection rapidly progresses to central loci in the spinal cord and, eventually, the brain. Of 24 known symptomatic patients whose cases were reviewed in 1992, 19 (79%) died.” Practically, even if the macaque-human model worked, it would not be a viable basis to provide organs for human transplant, another putative goal of this research. So, one might ask, what were the researchers doing? (READ MORE)

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