Stanford Researcher Wants to Create Human-Mouse Hybrid

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 14, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Stanford Researcher Wants to Create Human-Mouse Hybrid

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 14, 2005

Palo Alto, CA ( — A Stanford researcher has received initial permission to create a human-mouse hybrid as long as the creature acts like a mouse and not like a human being. The researcher hopes to use the studies to learn more about various diseases that plague humans.

Stanford biologist Irving Weissman’s research team would inject human cells into developing mice. Some cells would be cancerous or have other diseases while others would be perfectly healthy.

While the team has no immediate plans to create the human-mouse chimera, it is a theoretical question that they say could help facilitate research.

The development comes as the National Academy of Sciences is set to unveil guidelines on stem cell research and chimera this spring.

Because federal law doesn’t address the issue, the Stanford team asked the research university where it should draw the line.

Professor Henry T. Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences and leader of the committee that considered the proposal, told the San Jose Mercury News, "We concluded that if we see any signs of human brain structures . . . or if the mouse shows human-like behaviors, like improved memory or problem-solving, it’s time to stop."

"We think if he takes appropriate caution — including stopping at each step along the way, to see what’s happening — the research is ethical,” he said.

Weissman’s group asked for permission two years ago and he told the San Jose newspaper his intent is not scientific experimentation with chimera but an honest effort to study diseases such as brain cancer, stroke, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The university has partnered with the Palo Alto-based Stem Cells Inc. on the research.