Human-Animal Hybrids

Ken AshfordScience & TechnologyLeave a Comment

Bush State of The Union, 2006:

Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms; creating or implanting embryos for experiments; creating human-animal hybrids; and buying, selling or patenting human embryos.

Like many, when I heard Bush talk about human-animal hybrids, I was preplexed.  Great, I thought.  Now he believes in werewolves.

But apparently, it’s not science fiction.  Scientists have created a sheep which is 15% human:

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells – and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5m  ($A12m) perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep’s foetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor’s bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep’s foetus.

When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.

Ethically, I don’t have a problem with this, although I suppose developments of this sort will bring together an odd alliance between PETA and the religious right.  Still, it’s interesting.  Brave new world and all that.