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Animal/Human Hybrid Report ...

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 4536 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Chimera or animal hybrid is originally known through legends and myths as the creature which was made up of parts from other animals; the body and head of a lion, a goat’s head coming from its back, goat udders and a serpent’s tail. Today animal-human hybrids can develop through many processes and do not have such a defined image as these legends; it can be a mixture of any animals and humans. Today the ‘hybrid’ is defined as an organism that has been produced by a cross between unlikely parents or the joining of two different species DNA or genes. There are several types of human-animal hybrids; Cytoplasmic hybrid embryos – created through cell nuclear replacement using animal eggs, hybrid embryos – embryos created by mixing human sperm and animal eggs or human eggs and animal sperm, human chimera embryos – human embryos which have animal cells added to them during early development, animal chimera embryos – animal embryos which have human cells added to them during early development, and lastly transgenic human embryos – which have animal genes inserted into them during early development (as explained in the science article on the BC site). An example of a human animal hybrid is the human cells fused with rabbit eggs in 2003 by Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University, and they were developed for a few days then used for their stem cells. There were also researchers in Minnesota in 2004 that created pigs with human blood, and in 2005 mice were created with brains that were 1% human. There are many other examples all of which have resulted from scientific research in the search for answers to issues like diseases in humans that so far cannot be cured like motor neuron disease and liver disease.

This is all relatively modern sciences and as such is not extensively researched or explored and new experiments are coming out quite rapidly, which poses the problem that not much thought has gone into the future and where this science will lead.

The transgenic human embryos result from the combining of DNA through trans-genesis or genetic engineering. This is when the genome has changed to express genes from other species by inserting their DNA into a fertilized egg or early embryo. The process involves identification of the gene of interest, which produces a certain hormone or stimulates growth of a certain part once the gene has been identified it must be separated. This process is known as gene splicing; restriction enzymes split the DNA strands so the nucleotide bases are left exposed, the splitting occurs at the point of the specific sequence of DNA that is needed, this is ensured by the restriction enzyme used. This section of DNA that has been selected and unraveled is the ‘donor’ DNA. This part of the process results in many fragments of DNA which all express the gene of interest. Then the gene is associated with its appropriate promoter and poly A sequence and inserted into plasmids, which are circular molecules of DNA found in bacteria. Once the plasmid is placed back in the bacteria it is replicated in large numbers. After this the recombined and replicated DNA is collected and transferred usually into fertilized eggs. Once transferred the expression of the gene of interest is shown in the individual and a chimera or animal human hybrid is produced.

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This has big implications for the medical sciences as it could help with discoveries of medical treatments. For example an experiment where a mouse is generated with an almost completely human liver could help with the discovery of treatments for liver disease. The mouse involved in the experiment is a hybrid that contains a humanized liver, which is susceptible to liver infections. This is because the liver will respond just as a human liver does which also means it will respond to the same human treatments for the liver, which is what makes these experiments so helpful (experiment discussed in Science Daily). Karl-Dimiter Bissig, M.D. Ph D, an internist and post-doctoral researcher explains, “We found that, not only can we infect our humanized mouse with hepatitis B and hepatitis C, but we can successfully treat this infection using typical drugs”. He supports this research believing it will help, “I understand the importance of this type of bench-to-bedside research. This study shows a real application for our mouse model, making it relevant from both an academic and a clinical perspective”. He knows this research will bring further knowledge to scientists about how the liver and liver diseases such as the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C work and most importantly how best to cure them, which benefits our society. If we can heal these diseases we can improve quality of life and benefit society economically bay saving money over time.

Some may argue that it would be better for scientists to pursue other pathways for the same results, for example Jeremy Rifkin proposed computer model would be just as effective (on the national geographic site) but there is always the chance the models will be incorrect and look over important variables that could change results in the experiment, an actual experiment would be more reliable. There are other hurdles as discussed in the Science Daily (Feb. 23, 2010) that prevent other ways of finding a cure, for example it is not possible to grow liver cells or hepatocytes in a dish, so infecting and treating in a dish cannot be done. Small animals cannot be infected with the disease so this rules out using them for drug tests and because of genetic differences between the animals used for testing and humans, the drugs used have different effects on each making it hard to tell which will work on which species or which will harm. Creating hybrids means none of those barriers remain and research is viable; for finding drugs to cure, for gene therapy purposes and could possibly be used to study liver cancers. It could also in the future provide insight into the nature of hepatocyte cells prior to human transplantation.

Another example that scientists have learnt a lot from is pigs that have grown from fetuses that had human stem cells injected into them (discussion from New Scientist). The grown pigs had a mixture of human cells, pig cells and cells that were a hybrid mix of the two within their blood and organs. The hybrid cells chromosomal DNA contained both human and pig genes. The research opened up explanations for possible ways infections for other viruses have crossed between animals and humans. Possibilities like how HIV was passed; it could have been through an infected blood from a bite which allowed stem cells of the two species to fuse thus allowing the disease to develop. These are only theories but they are possible because of the research possibilities that the animal-human hybrids provide.

This year an experiment is in progress by British scientists, on making stem cells produce diseased and healthy brain cells, to workout how motor neuron disease develops. They have proposed to use hybrid embryos that carry the genetic mutation that causes the disease. The hybrid embryo is created by combining a diseased skin cell from a patient with an animal egg forming an early stage embryo. Then the stem cells are taken from the embryos and grown into adult nerve cells, prone to developing the disease (discussed in the article from The Guardian (24.05.2010)). Prof Siddharthan Chandran, a member of the Edinburgh University team says, “slowing down the disease is our first aim, stopping the disease is second, and the home run would be to repair and restore lost function”. And as Colin Blakemore, president of the MND association said (also from The Guardian article 24.05.2010), “there is great hope that this approach will enable us to unravel the mystery of motor neuron disease: why and how particular nerve cells die”. It would be incredible if this research could bring about these results as the implications would be huge, improved quality of life and the positive economical implications also as the amount of money saved in medical institutes to look after people affected by this disease would be immense. Not only would the research findings benefit in this disease the same findings and principles could also be used to help solve other diseases. The PHG Foundation, Royal Society, think that the research done on transfers of human cells into animal eggs would bring benefits along with knowledge about cell nuclear replacement technology and how to control these cells to develop into different tissue types.

The social implications are that the knowledge from these experiments could help aid in the testing of vaccines for tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue, HIV and hepatitis C all of which are diseases that claim many lives annually and most noticeably in the developing countries. A report done by the BMC International Health & Human Rights explains that these tropical diseases could be understood and vaccines created through human-animal hybrids as they provide an in-vivo system which is necessary for the study and can also resemble the human immune system or liver which allows for the fast effective testing of vaccines. These are extremely important factors as the diseases are unique to humans. Through this research millions of lives could be saved.

Not only could this research save lives but it could also have huge economical implications. Research on hybrids and their cells, which results in cures for diseases would save billions of dollars for governments and tax payers, who put money towards building institutes, funding hospitals and supporting people who suffer from these diseases, like motor neuron disease. However it would also have a negative economic effect on all the drug companies as they thrive off selling medicines and temporary “cures” for diseases. If the source of the disease was understood through this research and cured, then they would lose out on billions of dollars in drugs as patients would no longer need them. Over time this would be better in social implications because there would be an improved quality of life in both developed and developing countries as cures would be spread around the globe.

However there are still those that doubt and oppose this research even with all of its benefits. Jeremy Rifkin a biotechnology activist is one of these people, he agrees it would lead to medical breakthroughs but still believes animals have the right to exist without being tampered with or crossed with another species (as discussed on the National geographic site). He believes alternative options are better like sophisticated computer models in place of altering animals. William Cheshire, associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinics Jacksonville in Florida is also against the combining of humans and animals but only in the cases which cause human embryos to be destroyed, “this is unexplored biological territory, whatever moral threshold of human neural development we might choose to set as the limit for such an experiment, there would be a considerable risk of exceeding that limit before it could be recognized”. He is worried about where the future of this research is headed, it could lead into dangerous territory where we could be creating human children with traits of animals in them for our own curiosity, and deviating from medical research. This highlights the problematic aspect to this research that there are no ethical limitations to science experiments like these. David Magnus also agrees, he is the director of the Stanford Centre for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University, he believes the real worry is what will become of the hybrids created and what uses will they be put to in the future, they could become problematic and dangerous. Because the field is not extensively explored, not much is known about the consequences or future implications of creating these hybrids. Anything could happen further down the line that we don’t know about, we must be careful about the choices we make and think before rushing into these types of experiments and risk causing more issues rather than solving them.

This leads on into the ethical debate behind these science experiments and whether it is morally correct to run these experiments on animals, changing their DNA when we have no concept of how it really alters them. Is it right to kill off embryos before they are fully-grown using them for the gain of knowledge? William Cheshire, the professor mentioned earlier, is also part of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, he says, “We must be cautious not to violate the integrity of humanity or of animal life over which we have a stewardship responsibility. Research projects that create human-animal chimeras risk disturbing fragile ecosystems, endanger health, and affront species integrity”. Bringing in an unknown species into the world could disrupt ecosystems because it would provide new forms of competition and pressures, it would create difficulties. We would endanger the health and wellbeing of many species of animals and also potentially humans. We would also be violating the integrity of human life, should we really control whether or not an embryo of human or even animal life should be killed? Should that power be ours? This comes down to opinion and in some cases religious views.

Adam Brandejs is a Canadian sculptor who created an art-hoax in which he raised the debate of human- animal hybrid ethics through a product called Genpets. He set up an enterprise where he created what appeared to be0 bioengineered animal-human hybrids that could be brought as living breathing pets that are results from a cross between human and animal genetics. He even set up a website to promote the product creating plastic prototypes and even explaining the science behind how they were created, ” A process called ‘Zygote Micro injection’ which is quickly becoming a favorable method to combine DNA”. He quoted examples of actual science experiments that had used these processes, one example was a group of Japanese scientists in 1997 who fused bioluminescent jellyfish with mice which created glowing mice, which could then be used to observe the internal development of fetuses under ultraviolet light. Brandejs also wrote up a manual for his plastic contained pets; explaining how he was keeping them alive in their packaging and all the features they came with. This included features of the pets such as select personalities so they could be modified to suit the preferences of the buyer. This hoax triggered a lot of emotion and caused heated debates about the morality of it, but that was what Brandejs wanted. Brandejs isn’t against bioengineering, he simply wanted to raise peoples awareness about the broadness of how this technology could be used and who it could be used by. There are already companies using science to produce genetically engineered animals; Allerca, which produces cats and dogs that people won’t be allergic to and Glofish in Asia who produce fish which glow fluorescent under white lights. Raising awareness about this topic was important as it made people think about the implications for the future, which means people will be watching and it will be harder for unethical projects to occur. What is also important is the sudden reality check brought on by this art-hoax, this product only shocked people because it was so far-fetched from what they knew to be possible at the time. It made the change from an abstract detached idea of science in the future to a reality of our own time. It raises the issue that gradual developments that can be overlooked. If research on hybrids had continued to evolve without thought, products like Genpets could have arisen and we wouldn’t think twice about it because it would become what we expected as we get used to the idea of more and more abstract uses of hybrids over time. We need to become aware that there is no distinct line between what is acceptable and what is not and that that line can easily move over time as more discoveries and experiments are done without our realization.

What is acceptable comes down to opinion and what we value as important. There are already human-animal hybrids created right now, as some peoples whose heart valves have failed have been replaced with ones taken out of cows and pigs as they do the same function and are similar in size. Technically these people are hybrids as they are a mix of human and animal genes, they still function normally and are accepted in society. So what is it that makes them so different from other hybrids created? This is what many governments are struggling to distinguish between, as they try to build laws against unethical experiments but still want to be able to make headway in science research on cures for diseases that would save peoples lives. Canada passed an act in 2004, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act (as stated in the National Geographic article), which bans chimeras by prohibiting the transfer of nonhuman cells into a human embryo and putting human cells into a nonhuman embryo. Also in 2004, in Ohio the Senate passed Senate Bill 243 (as stated in the New Scientist article), which 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. These laws put barriers up for scientists limiting what they can do in pursuit of medical science which is a negative biological implication, but prevents unethical procedures from occurring which is positive social implication. In some places the NAS guidelines prevent the breeding of generations of hybrids where it is thought human genes were involved. It is a difficult issue and the laws ideally should still allow for some medical experiments on small scales that can help improve medical science and cure people but ban completely experiments that are purely for curiosity or anything that causes harm to any species involved. But it’s so hard to define which experiments are legitimately for medical cures and which are for scientific curiosity, as most scientists would claim their experiments were for legitimate research. Harm to a species is also a difficult issue, how do you measure harm? It can’t be done because again it comes down to opinion, a scientist may claim destroying a 5 day old embryo isn’t harm but a Christian would believe that all life is precious and an embryo 5 days old counts as life so destroying it would count as harm. Along the lines of religion Christians would raise the question that the hybrids are living creatures and therefore have souls and are thought of as very important in Gods eye and cannot be used in such ways. However there is also the debate that animals are killed in the thousands each year, can a few cells of human genes make them any different?

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There are so many question unanswered on this topic that will one day have to be addressed. How many human cells must a hybrid contain for it to no longer be considered an animal or human? Can we continue to hunt animals knowing there is a possibility they could contain large portions of human genetics? When does the animal we eat become human, at what percentage of genes? Must we create a new definition for these creatures? Where does the line stop? The truth is, is that we can’t tell because there is no solid line in this field it is an open area and we are blurring any possibility of a line by mixing two species to create hybrids, making it more and more difficult to make out a difference.

There can be no direct solution to these arguments as there will always be people with differing opinions, differing values of things important in life and different answers for the questions, so compromises must be made on all sides if we are to address the issues.

In support of the research on hybrids there are these points, when testing on embryos they are only creating and destroying a few cells not a whole animal. There are no experiments so far that have used human eggs, all genetic contributions so far have been very small and the animals all remain mostly animal and human embryos mostly human. The embryos worked on never become fully grown creatures so don’t break any human rights and technically don’t become breathing, seeing feeling creatures. However in opposition to the research on hybrids there are also several points, the line between human and animal is becoming blurred because of the implications of the research, being that in the future they could be allowed to develop and grow into whole creatures. It violates the integrity of the species of both human and animal. The concept of hybrids is wrong in that it is changing God’s image into something unnatural. It is disrespecting the life form that is the small embryo or collection of cells they still count as a life form and should be respected as such and not destroyed. There is nothing stopping the further development of this research there are no limitations and scientists could find themselves creating dangerous hybrids that could be allowed to fully develop, which could in turn damage our earths fragile ecosystems. There is the risk new diseases could be created or new pathways formed where diseases we previously couldn’t receive we now could.

Both sides of the argument have solid points, however I agree with the supporting side feels that the research experiments done on animal human hybrids should be allowed to continue. I believe they contribute a very important part to the medical sciences and I think the possibilities of being able to cure diseases like motor neuron disease and tropical diseases such as malaria, dengue, HIV and hepatitis C is a crucial point in this argument. The amount of lives we could save from the research far outweighs the small portion of embryos ‘lives’ that would be sacrificed to gain the knowledge. As stated previously in my report, the report done by the BMC International Health & Human Rights talked about how diseases could be solved through human-animal hybrids as they provide an in-vivo system which is necessary for the study and they can resemble the human immune system or human liver which allows for the fast effective testing of vaccines, which is so important because the diseases are uniquely for humans. I also agree with Anant Bhan, Peter A Singer and Abdallah S Daar who wrote this article by the BMC International Health & Human Rights on the opportunities for the developing world from human-animal chimeras, and I believe studies like those are very important today. If we put off the experiments on animal-human hybrids because of ethical issues, and scientific breakthroughs could not occur, and cures could not be found, wouldn’t the loss of lives already on this earth be worse than the loss of the embryos lives that it would have taken for the research? If the ethical issue stopping the research, is value of the life of an embryo, out of the embryo and the human alive today whose life is worth more? I say the human alive today is worth more and as a result research through the use of human-animal hybrid embryos should continue for the benefit of human life, as the number of lives this research could save would be immense.

My main sources of information came from science sites for example the one which is run by ‘New Scientist’, it talked about pig-human chimeras and the discoveries involved giving a positive light to the research. Then there was also the one run by ‘Science Daily’, it talked about the mouse with human liver and the alternative pathways to experimenting on hybrids and how the alternative pathways didn’t work, it also talked about the benefits of experimenting with human-animal hybrids. Also the one run by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, it talked about the processes of genetic modification. These sources are reliable because they are run by scientists who edit all the work on the sites so you know the information is correct because they peer-mediate their work.

The other reliable sites were ones run by creditable companies like National Geographic whose articles are also written and edited by scientists, along with the website by Discovery News. However they are not as reliable as the actual science sites as it is unknown whether they are peer mediated which makes the information slightely less reliable. The National Geographic site talked about both the supporting and opposed views of the issue, examples of hybrids and their uses, alternative processes and laws set up around the issue so overall was a very fair site which showed an even balance and gave a well rounded view on the topic. The Discovery News website showed examples and discussed general laws and ethics around the issue not supporting either side.

The other main sites I based my research off were company sites promoting their products which are reliable because the actual company monitors their own site and the information given so you know it is truthful of their product. These companies websites were; Genpets, Allerca and Glofish. The Genpets was against, it was the art-hoax done to bring awareness about the issue of hybrids and where they may lead.

The other sources I used was an article by BMC International Health & Human Rights and their scientists who wrote the article so it is definitely reliable as the article is written by the scientists doing the actual study. There was more than one scientist working on the article and they peer-mediated each other’s work producing the article together so we know the information is correct. They were in support of research on hybrids as they were working on a report about the technology and benefits it would bring to the developing world and the lives it would save.

The books I used are very reliable as they are peer checked because they were dictionaries and had information about the scientific processes involved so the information gathered from them is definitely correct.

I did have to discard two of my resources one was Wikipedia as the page with information on hybrids had not been edited by a scientist so the information was not reliable because anyone could have written it and the information could be incorrect as it is unknown how many people contributed to the information. The other source I had to discard was an article from the Health Care industry as the article was posted in1994 and the ideas were out of date and some information was incorrect as it did not match up with the information from my other reliable sources also it had not been updated since it was first published so was unreliable and could not be used.


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