On a party-line vote, Senate Democrats today defeated an amendment designed to stop experimentation on unborn children. Every Republican voted in favor of the pro-life amendment from Indiana Senator Michael Braun but every Democrat voted against the measure to prohibit scientists from creating “human animal” chimeras.
The amendment would have stopped researchers from combining human and non-human DNA to possibly make embryos of an “uncertain” species. But 49 Democrats voted against it while 48 Republicans voted in favor.
The amendment would have prevented creation of a “nonhuman life form” that is “engineered” to exhibit “human facial features or other bodily morphologies to resemble human features,” and would have imposed a fine or prison for even attempting to create a human-animal chimera.
“Human life is distinct and sacred, and research that creates an animal-human hybrid or transfers a human embryo into an animal womb or vice versa should be completely prohibited, and engaging in such unethical experiments should be a crime,” said Braun.
The Biden administration has removed critical ethical reviews and prohibitions on taxpayer-funded experiments using fetal tissue. The new guidelines, including funding for government intramural research with aborted fetal tissue that was very quietly restored so as not to draw notice, ignored proposed changes that would prevent abuses of informed consent, stop trafficking in fetal body parts and establish safeguards. The move also ignores the substantial evidence against this antiquated science and in favor of ethical alternatives.
Dr. David Prentice has talked about the problems associated with this kind of research:
Meanwhile, an Israeli research group has grown mouse embryos in laboratory bottles for extended periods up to halfway through gestation, and they proposed doing the same experiments with human embryos. The mice-in-a-bottle experiments also manipulated the mouse embryos, using them to test toxicity of compounds, to do gene editing mutation experiments and adding human stem cells to mouse embryos to form human-mouse chimeras. Next would be experiments with human embryos. The lead researcher noted: “I would advocate growing it [a human embryo] until day 40 and then disposing of it.”
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The story of growing embryos outside the womb for extended periods comes just as researchers are advocating for removal of the “14 day limit,” an arbitrary prohibition on growing human embryos in the laboratory that has provided an ethical façade for embryo researchers. However, the only real ethical line to prevent human embryo exploitation would be a zero-day limit.
Within the last two months, there have also been five reports on creating so-called “artificial” or “synthetic” human embryos, sometimes called embyroids, blastoids or embryo-like constructs. Four papers appeared almost simultaneously. Two of the papers claiming to be the first complete models of a human embryo appeared in the same issue of the journal Nature as the mice-in-a-bottle experiment. By combining different stem cells, the researchers were able to form biological structures possessing not only the cells that form the embryo body proper but also cells needed to form a placenta, bringing the laboratory-generated embryos to the brink of being recognized as viable human embryos. Two other papers showing similar results at constructing embryos appeared at almost the same time on the bioRxiv preprint server, while a fifth paper published recently in Cell Stem Cell was touted by the authors as providing “a robust experimental model for human embryo research.” While all of these papers studiously avoid calling their stem cell-derived constructs “embryos,” there is no doubt that the end goal is to make not just approximations, but the real thing. “A rose by any other name….”
Back in 2019, scientists announced that they successfully created the first monkey-pig hybrid, in a controversial research project teeming with ethical issues and concerning questions.
Chinese scientists at the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing announced the birth of the first pig-monkey chimeras. The researchers modified monkey cells and laced them with a fluorescent protein that allowed them to trace the cells and the cells they produce. The scientists then obtained embryonic cells from the genetically modified cells and injected those monkey cells into pig embryos days after creating them in the lab.
Some 4,000 monkey-pig embryos were implanted and all of them died except for 10 monkey-pig piglets who were born. Of the 10, two of them turned out to be “successful” chimeras with attributes of both animals but only a tiny part monkey. Their heart, liver, spleen, lung, and skin contained one in 1000 and one in 10,000 of monkey cells, according to the scientists.
All of the chimeras died within a week and the non-chimeras died as well.
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The point of the controversial experiments is to supposedly eventually create human organs for transplan
Scientists previously made a living pig embryo with some human characteristics.
National Geographic reports the disturbing new experiment involved pig embryos injected with human cells. Researchers at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California said they implanted the living pig-human embryos, or chimeras, in adult pigs’ wombs and allowed them to grow between three and four weeks. Later, the scientists said they removed the creatures, which then died, and studied them.
Jun Wu, a lead study author, told National Geographic that the researchers created 186 later-stage pig-human embryos that survived until removed from the womb.
“… we estimate [each had] about one in 100,000 human cells,” Wu said.
There is wide-spread societal discomfort with the ethics of creating creatures that are part human, part animal, but it has not stopped several U.S. research groups from delving into the controversial experimentation anyway.
University of Rochester researchers implanted newborn mice with nascent human glial cells to test brain activity involved with learning and memory, LifeNews reported. The University of Wisconsin also has conducted human-animal hybrid studies.
Bioethicist Wesley Smith has previously warned about experiments with human-animal hybrids and letting scientists police themselves — because they often throw ethics and a respect for human life out the window.
The real question is when are we going to enforce the regulations with sharp teeth? Do we need to criminalize these experiments to get scientists to stop? Because when we say, “ban ” certain kinds of experiments, we are pejoratively labeled as “anti science,” and that we should trust “the scientists” not to stray too far afield.
Talk is cheap. The truth is, I think many scientists oppose any permanent and meaningful restraints–on themselves and each other. If I am right, society will have to forcefully take matters into its own hands.