Scientists Create Human-Mouse Hybrid Using Embryonic Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 13, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scientists Create Human-Mouse Hybrid Using Embryonic Stem Cells

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 13, 2005

San Diego, CA ( — Scientists announced Monday they are continuing to create human-animal hybrids that are posing concerns for bioethicists and pro-life groups. The latest creation has researchers at the Salk Institute in San Diego creating mice and injecting them with hundreds of thousands of human embryonic stem cells.

Led by Fred Gage, the scientists injected the 14 day-old mice with the cells, which can only come from the destruction of human life. Gage argues the process doesn’t give the mouse human qualities and shouldn’t pose an ethical problem.

"This illustrates that injecting human stem cells into mouse brains doesn’t restructure the brain," Gage told the Associated Press.

David Magnus, director of the Stanford Medical Center for Biomedical Ethics, told AP he didn’t think the research "comes even close" to violating ethical limits.

"The worry is if you humanize them too much you cross certain boundaries," he said.

Researchers like Gage argue his animal-human hybrids are necessary because it allows better testing of drugs that could potential treat humans. Humans and mice are 97.5 percent genetically identical, which is why they’re used so often in experiments.

Another reason for the experiments is to determine the best time to inject people with embryonic stem cells. Thus far embryonic stem cell research has yet to yield any treatments for any diseases or conditions.

One reason is because scientists don’t know what the cells will do once they’re injected into people’s bodies. The animal-human hybrid is another way to answer that question.

Because of concerns about human-animal hybrids, the National Academy of Sciences released voluntary guidelines earlier this year that many research universities have adopted and are mandatory in California for grant recipients.

The rules were not in place when Salk started the experiments, but Gage says the work would have been approved had it been subjected to them.

The work was published in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.