Scientists work on half-human, half-animal embryos

U.S., scientists are working on embryos whose genetic material is half-human, half-animal. These embryos are called "chimeras". In Greek mythology, the chimera is a hybrid creature formed from different animals (lion, goat, snake).

Lhe chimeras scientists are working on are created artificially by combining genetic material from different species into a single embryo. Adult animals that then develop have a wide variety of cells, depending on the species from which they were produced.

“We're not trying to make a pipe dream just because we want to create some kind of monstrous creature,” says Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist at the University of California. “We are doing this for a biomedical purpose. We are just trying to use the technologies that we have developed to improve peoples' lives. "

Several other institutes are carrying out similar research, including the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, Stanford University and the University of Minnesota.

Other scientists warn such experiments could harm the sense of humanity, reports The media NPR. The National Institute of Health has imposed a moratorium on the funding of scientists working on chimeric embryos. Officials are currently debating the ethical questions that this research raises: “The prospect of chimeric human-animals bothers many people and raises troubling questions about their moral and legal status. Would a human-animal chimera have human rights? Could it be patented and considered property? What if she was 99,9% human and 0,1% chimpanzee? Or if the situation was reversed? "

“If you had pigs with partly human brains, you would have animals that could actually have human consciousness. They might even have needs similar to humans. We don't really know, ”says Stuart Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College.
Jason Robert, bioethicist at Arizona State University, adds, “There is something sacred in our DNA that makes us human. By inserting that something into animals, maybe we are giving those animals some of the abilities of human beings. It could be an attack on humanity - it could be like playing God ”.

Members of the Italian Green Party Verdi had already demonstrated in 2010 in Munich against patents filing a technique for crossing humans and animals. However, the Australian company Amrad last year obtained a patent for methods of culturing cells from human and animal embryos. Mice, birds, sheep, pigs, cattle, goats and even fish could be used to create chimeras.

Elodie Crepin

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