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Biotech Government

Hybrid Human-Animal DNA Experiments Raise Concerns 311

Kevin Fishburne writes "British scientists are calling for a new agency to oversee the mixing of human and animal DNA, which is progressing at a rate most may not be aware of: 'Among experimentation that might spark concern are those where human brain cells might change animal brains, those that could lead to the fertilization of human eggs in animals and any modifications of animals that might create attributes considered uniquely human, like facial features, skin or speech. ... Some disagree. "We think some of these should be done, but they should be done in an open way to maintain public confidence," said Robin Lovell-Badge, head of stem cell biology and developmental genetics at Britain's Medical Research Council, one of the expert group members. He said experiments injecting human brain cells into the brains of rats might help develop new stroke treatments or that growing human skin on mice could further understanding of skin cancer.'"
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Hybrid Human-Animal DNA Experiments Raise Concerns

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  • Oh noes... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by virgnarus ( 1949790 ) on Friday July 22, 2011 @09:44AM (#36845012)
    A furry's wet dream... *shudder*
  • FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 22, 2011 @09:51AM (#36845110) Journal
    Do we have to include the ghastly emotive rot among the potentially legitimate concerns?

    Zoonotic diseases are certainly a real issue(though we've caught plenty just through good, old-fashioned, living in close proximity), and any techniques that would hypothetically involve the production of excessively human central nervous systems in laboratory animals might get ethically dodgy; but are "skin" and "facial features" really 'uniquely human' attributes that squick us out so much we just can't stand it? The idea that having a cartilage-and-soft-tissue structure that looks kind of human, rather than having a differently shaped one, is somehow an 'ethical' problem, rather than pure squeamishness, is just emotive rot.

    "The effect of custom, in preventing any misgiving respecting the rules of conduct which mankind impose on one another, is all the more complete because the subject is one on which it is not generally considered necessary that reasons should be given, either by one person to others, or by each to himself. People are accustomed to believe, and have been encouraged in the belief by some who aspire to the character of philosophers, that their feelings, on subjects of this nature, are better than reasons, and render reasons unnecessary." -J.S. Mill
  • Re:As long as (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grimmjeeper ( 2301232 ) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:06AM (#36845306) Homepage

    As long as I can get a cat that will tell me exactly what it wants instead of me having to figure it out, I'm good.

    Then they can apply that gene to women.

    That's easy. But there's one fatal flaw to this idea. In order to give women the ability to just tell people what they want, you have to insert a Y chromosome. Trouble is, that turns them into a man.

  • Re:Watchers? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:07AM (#36845314)
    Yes, let's scare more people with a bunch of fictional nonsense intended to play on people's fears and fool them into believing that fear response is the same as morality.

    H.G. Wells was a great author, but that does not qualify him to be a credible source of perspective on the ethics of genetic research, especially when his implicit goal was to be salacious enough to sell books, not to have the most honest and balanced possible view.
  • Re:And so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:09AM (#36845350)

    The problem is that species have evolved with what they have over time, so that problematic and crippling mutations are rapidly selected out.

    If you start creating hybrids, you create traits for which a species has not evolved, and as such those traits may have massively debilitating effects on the creature.

    Effectively, when we've long learnt that sometimes the best thing to do for an animal that is suffering, is to put it down, because it's more ethical than letting it suffer, then is it not ethically wrong to create creatures that will suffer with the intention of keeping them alive for experiments?

    Would it be fair to manipulate a human embryo to make it grow up with skin cancer all over it's body to examine skin cancer? is it fair to do it to an animal?

    I'll admit I side with the activists here, I think it is cruel and quite horrible, however, I'm also not sure that if we want to advance science that there's any alternative, and that leaves us at a disturbing crossroads- is the advancement of science worth ignoring ethical concerns? If it is in this case then where does it stop, where is the line drawn at which point it is not worth it? or do we carry on until we really do have mad scientists like in the movies!

  • Re:And so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Friday July 22, 2011 @10:29AM (#36845632)
    Do you know what has to happen before nature can 'rapidly select out' bad mutations? They have to exist first. We are a part of nature, produced by natural processes, and I would argue that making mutated things with a purpose is better than other natural mutations that are mere accidents of reproduction. "Bad" mutations are going to happen anyway, they might as well at least be useful.

    All of this requires perspective. Tests done on animals that were both fatal and brutal have in the end saved millions of lives. I would gladly personally torture an animal or a dozen to death if it would save a million human lives, and that is a natural instinct. It's what's put us where we are in the first place. Animals that are vicious tend to survive better in a universe that doesn't care.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!