The Ohio Senate has banned human cloning and animal-human hybridisation.
The sci-fi movie Splice seems to have scared the Ohio’s State Senator Steve Buehrer. The Ohio Senate has passed Sen. Buehrer’s bill banning
human cloning and the use of human-animal hybrids. Senate Bill 243 prohibits “the creation, transportation, or receipt of a human-animal hybrid,
the transfer of a nonhuman embryo into a human womb, and the transfer of a human embryo into a nonhuman womb.”
My first thoughts were to laugh out loud at the hysterical nonsense that gets passed these days. Human-animal hybrids? Have they seen too many sci-fi
movies and panicked? Seen too many catgirls in Japanese manga? I pictured kids in animal costumes getting dragged out of birthday parties at gunpoint.
Banned?! No way!
1. A Chimera is produced when a human embryo is fused with an animal embryo
2. An Hybrid is produced when a human female egg is fertilised with animal sperm or vice-versa
3. A "Cybrid" is produced when an animal cell's genetic material is removed and replaced with human genetic material.
Here's a little background. (I'm not a medical man, so any errors in translation or interpretation are due to that)
In 2003 Chinese scientists spliced human cells to rabbit embryos
The rabbits developed naturally, but they were killed days after birth and harvested for stem cells. A year later, in Minnesota, pigs were created
that apparently had human blood
. We've grown human livers in sheep and human brain
cells in rats and mice. The livers could be useful for transplants and blood for transfusions.
Human ears are grown on mice...
Mouse with human ears
In 2008 a British team successfully combined human cells with a cow's ovary to produce hybrid embryos for study. They hope to work out the cure for
Parkinson's, Motor Neurone Disease and Alzheimers.
First British human-animal hybrid embryos created by
Lyle Armstrong, who led the work, gained permission in January from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to create the embryos,
known as "cytoplasmic hybrids".
His team at Newcastle University produced the embryos by inserting human DNA from a skin cell into a hollowed-out cow egg. An electric shock then
induced the hybrid embryo to grow. The embryo, 99.9% human and 0.1% other animal, grew for three days, until it had 32 cells.
Eventually, scientists hope to grow such embryos for six days, and then extract stem cells from them. The researchers insisted the embryos would never
be implanted into a woman and that the only reason they used cow eggs was due to the scarcity of human eggs.
So we can see that this type of research is not for the faint-hearted. I certainly couldn't do it, but I appreciate the benefits that could be gained
from this area of science.
An imagined human/pig hybrid
The Ohio Bill
has weighed up the merits of the research against some emotional
morality and banned it. It'll have as much impact on the development of this science as Bush did when he banned stem cell research. Despite his
emotional quasi-religious stance, stem cell research is thriving. A friend's daughter has Cystic Fibrosis and she's watching it very carefully.
Families with high probabilities of Parkinsons and Alzheimers are likewise hoping to escape their fate. Such hopes can be characterised as
'selfish,' but I'd argue they don't want to be the cause of unhappiness to loved ones.
Senator Breuher demonstrates the extent of his insight in this quote from earlier this week...
Stem cell research no longer threatened by Ohio
“While thoughts of animal-human hybrids conger up images for science fiction movies, it is no fantasy that several labs around the world have or are
attempting to combine animal and human cells,”
There's a more scientific argument in support of the Bill. There's always going to be a risk that introducing proteins from one species to another
could trigger even worse conditions. We could exchange Alzheimers for something like CJD for example. HIV came from chimps. Some versions of Avian Flu
cause leukaemia. These are real dangers. Are they enough to justify the ban?
Is it an abuse of Animal Rights and Human Rights? The treatment of animals by humans is often appalling. I'd hate to see labs of animals being
cruelly treated, but that's isn't cause to ban the research. There can be ethical, humane (don't laugh!) studies.
From my point of view, if science follows ethical guidelines...anything goes. This Bill seems like yet another reflection of the contagious
anti-intellectualism that defines modern politics. Science continually takes a back-seat to popularity, religious views and political lobbying. I
understand there are risks in this research. There's cost versus benefit. Having said that, is it right to block research without good reason? Should
we be banning potentially valuable areas of study on the basis of 'what if?'
I've got a 'what if' for Breuher! What if his son or daughter requires heart valve surgery? Will he stop them from having a pig's valve
replacement? That's fairly standard these days. If his parents develop leukaemia or Alzheimer's, will he deny them stem cell treatments? My faith in
politicians says "Hell no!" He'll send his family members out of State to get the treatments he denies to the less fortunate.
It's fortunate that ignorant politicians only have limited jurisdictions and longevity. Their influence may be damaging within their sphere, but
there's always other countries carrying the flame of scientific endeavour. Anyway, I guess this is approaching a rant so I'll quit and post it!