From The Telegraph [London]: Hybrid rabbit-human embryos could be created in a plan under discussion by scientists and the fertility watchdog as a result of the Korean stem cell scandal. The team had intended to use human eggs to clone embryos in its efforts to create human stem cells for research on motor neurone disease, which kills 1,000 people a year in Britain.
But the scientists, including Prof Ian Wilmut, who led the effort to clone Dolly the sheep, have been forced to think about alternatives as a result of the furore triggered by the falsification of stem cell data in South Korea.
More: The use of cybrids and chimeras is “a grey area” in terms of current regulations, which are under review, said Prof Alison Murdoch, of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne, one of the team that cloned the first human embryo in the West.
This is a very troubling development, risking the mixing of human and rabbit genetic materials. Are we not courting disaster with this kind of technology?
Nancy L. Jones of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity offers insight into the basic issues involved with chimeras in “Could Animal-Human Chimeras Be On the Way?,” available at the center’s Web site.
Her conclusion: What principles may Christians invoke to guide them in formulating a response to the possibility of such animal-human chimeras? Some concern should certainly be expressed for the experimental animal’s suffering; however, Christians do believe that they have been given stewardship over animals and are permitted to use them to benefit humanity. Another concern would be zoonotic transmission of disease, which occurs when pathogens cross the traditional species barriers of disease transmission. When human and animal tissues are intertwined so closely, potential mutations of once species-specific pathogens may gain a unique ability to infect organisms of other species. A more fundamental Christian concern involves violation of the divinely created order. The Bible tells us that God designed procreation so that plants, animals, and humans always reproduce after their own kind or seed. (Gen 1:11-12, 21) In the biblical view, then, species integrity is defined by God, rather than by arbitrary or evolutionary forces. The fusion of animal-human genomes runs counter to the sacredness of human life and man created in the image of God.
The creation of animal-human chimeras as a means of deriving human tissue and organs highlights the deeper issues facing our generation: the new biological genomic revolution and the resultant power that may permit scientists to redesign various species and biological life. We must not allow such an ability to outstrip the ethical analysis that must accompany it.