In what some ethicists see as an alarming development, scientists have begun to produce a creature that is half human and half animal. The creatures, known as chimeras, were developed by scientists at Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003. Scientists there created the human hybrids after fusing human cells with rabbit eggs. Also, last year, Minnesota researchers created pigs with human blood running through their veins.
Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras---a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.
They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.
In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.
And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.
In March it plans to present voluntary ethical guidelines for researchers.
What's caused the uproar is the mixing of human stem cells with embryonic animals to create new species.
"There are other ways to advance medicine and human health besides going out into the strange, brave new world of chimeric animals," Rifkin said, adding that sophisticated computer models can substitute for experimentation on live animals.
David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University, believes the real worry is whether or not chimeras will be put to uses that are problematic, risky, or dangerous.
For example, an experiment that would raise concerns, he said, is genetically engineering mice to produce human sperm and eggs, then doing in vitro fertilization to produce a child whose parents are a pair of mice.
Creating chimeras, she said, by mixing human and animal gametes (sperms and eggs) or transferring reproductive cells, diminishes human
But, she noted, the wording on such a ban needs to be developed carefully.
Irv Weissman, director of Stanford University's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine in California, is against a ban in the United States.
William Cheshire, associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic's Jacksonville, Florida, branch, feels that combining human and animal neurons is problematic.
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