Tag Archive | "human-animal chimeras"

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Unregulated Chimeras Continue

Posted on 11 March 2015 by Jerry

Genetic engineers are again giving mice a sneak peek at human existence.  The series of experiments continue with engineers marrying human brain tissue with the brains of a mouse. The question is what do we expect to learn and how many genetic engineers can repeat the same experiments to what end?  Do we not know that human brain cells or brain tissue injected into mice brains significantly enhances their memory and problem solving abilities?

The most recent research projects involved use of the FOXP2 gene that in humans is linked to the difficulty of forming words.  As part of the research it was discovered that there was a difference between this gene in humans and those in chimpanzees.   This subtle difference is thought to be one of the keys to the development of language capabilities in humans as opposed to chimpanzees.

This initiated a series of experiments by various researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany.  One group of researchers put the human version of the gene in mice brains.  They showed that the “humanized” mice had greater complexity in their calls of alarm to other mice and much greater frequency of these calls.

A subsequent study dealt with the straitum, a part of the mouse brain.  This is the region of the brain that is involved in the rate of learning in mice.  The issue that was raised was would the human FOXP2 gene affect the rate of learning in mice.

This study looked at both types of learning; consciously breaking a task into its constituent parts and the habituating of activity so that the sequence of tasks becomes an unconscious repetition.  For example, the study showed that humanized mice performed faster than normal mice in mazes that involved both types of learning.

Of interest, the performance was the same in mazes where just one type of learning was involved.  It was felt the advantage of the humanized mice was they were much quicker to habituate repetitive tasks than the normal mice.

This follows research of Steve Goldman that use Glial cells (thought of as junk genes that support the human brain) to see if the genes could boost mouse intelligence.  An article in the High Tech Society states, “Previously, he inserted fully grown Glial cells into an adult mouse, and watched as their intelligence and memory leapt off the charts.”

The article continued, “He experimented with mouse pups, using immature glial cells from donated human fetuses.   Each mouse pup received over 300,000 immature glial cells, which, inside of the mouse brain, quickly matured and took over for the mouse glial cells, multiplying to some 12 million, and completely replacing the native cells.  Adult mice who had received this transfusion exhibited memory capacity of about 4 times that of an ordinary mouse.”

The point is that these experiments are repeated hundreds if not thousands of times by researchers who are on a learning curve or hope to get a different outcome from each experiment.  It multiplies considerably the odds that a humanized mouse or mice may find a way to the wild and cause incalculable harm to our environment.

Imagine the difficulty we would have catching and killing such a humanized mouse.  Its reactions would be different.  It could learn different strategies to try as it infests the human environment.  It would react in more effective ways to other predators that would hunt it (e.g. cats).

These experiments with mice are today the only public source describing experiments that are underway.  Other experiments that mix the genes of disparate species of animals are taking place out of the public view.   These and these mice experiments are what we need to regulate and control.

Other than NIH funded projects where experimenters have to adhere to government mandates these experiments continue to have only self-imposed regulation.  Our government continues to take a hands-off policy to regulating these types of experiments.  That would change in a nanosecond if one of these experiments went awry and one of these humanized animals gained access to our environment.

Government regulation, control and oversight are necessary.  As the previous article about synthetic biology states, this regulation needs to be consistent and worldwide in scope.  This is the only way to minimize the risk to those who inhabit the planet.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents for this article.

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/09/human-speech-gene-can-speed-learning-mice

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26216-human-language-gene-makes-mice-smarter.html#.VOjzi1qykUU

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/09/16/mice-smarter-single-human-gene/#.VOj0gVqykUU

http://thehightechsociety.com/human-genes-used-to-make-mice-smarter/

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Panels Look at Genetic Engineering of “Chimeras” in UK and Germany

Posted on 06 November 2011 by Jerry

When you create an animal combining genetic material from a human being and from a non-human animal species, it is known as a Human-Animal Chimera.  The word Chimera (ki-meer-uh) came from the name of a mythical Greek fire-breathing she-monster having a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.  When two of the world’s most advanced nations, within a few months of each other (in July and September 2011), issue panel study results considering the ethics of a specific type of experiment you know something has likely begun which the governments are attempting to catch up to.  Such is the case with the experimental creation of human-animal transgenic organisms.  Transgenic refers to taking an organism or cells from one species and incorporating the cells or genes from another species into it making the resulting animal “transgenic”.

In fairness, these panels responded to new rules issued by the European Union last year requiring countries to establish national ethics boards to oversee animal research.  This of course does not reduce the importance of the panels.  A September 27, 2011 article in Science Magazine by Gretchen Vogel compares the two reports, from Germany and the UK, saying about the German report “The report’s philosophical slant – it cites Aristotle, Kant, Hans Jonas, and others – gives it a slightly different flavor from one issued by the British Academy of Medical Sciences in July.  That report came to similar conclusions but based its recommendations on what the panel thought the British public would find objectionable.”

Supportive of this last point, apparently some scientists were not concerned about the morality of various experiments but rather the public’s reaction to them.  Geneticist Martin Bobrow of the University of Cambridge who chaired the academy’s working group is quoted as saying, “We are trying to get this issue out there before anything has happened.  If the public has heard about something, they are less likely to get irritable when something does hit the headlines.” His statements seem to label the U.K. national ethics panel as more of a damage control function than moral watchdog.

The following describe the recommendations of the two panels regarding Animals Containing Human Material (ACHM):

United Kingdom:

The report recommends three categories for classification of experiments involving ACHM.  The first is experiments that should be subject to the same oversight and regulation as other animal experiments.  The second category is experiments that should receive extra review before obtaining permission to proceed.  Last is a category of experiments that should be entirely off limits.  The following are examples of experiments that fall into the second and third categories.

Category

2.  Those that modify an animal’s brain to make it more “human-like”

2.  Those that place functional human germ cells in animals

2.  Experiments that could make animals’ appearance or behavior more human

2.  Those that add human genes or cells to nonhuman primates

3.  Breeding animals that have or could develop human germ cells in their gonads

3.  Those that attempt to transplant enough human-derived neural cells into a nonhuman primate

to prompt human-like behavior

3.  Those that allow embryos that mix human and nonhuman primate cells to develop beyond 14

days.

Notes:

a)      Embryos that are “predominately animal,” but still contain human cells are unregulated in the United Kingdom.  The report recommends closing that loophole.

b)      The germ line of a mature or developing individual is the line or sequence of germ cells that have genetic material that can be passed to a child.


Germany:

Germany did not recommend categories for experimentation.  Using the British categories however, the following are experiments which either require further review and permission to proceed (category 2) or should be banned entirely (category three).

Category

2.  Those that make transgenic monkeys with human genes

2.  Those that put human brain cells into animals (These need better methods to measure the

effects of such cells on recipients’ behavior)

3.  Introducing animal material into the human germ line

3.  Those that would lead to the development of human sperm or eggs in an animal

3.  Implanting an animal embryo into a human

These panel reports should be cause for concern about these burgeoning sciences.  If these are the experiments that two major developed and mature nations are publicly concerned with and talking about, what are all the other counties of the world doing.  The fact that reports recommend that certain experiments be banned entirely should be interpreted to acknowledge that the capability to conduct them exists and that they are not banned today.  We could assume these experiments and others are being conducted around the world.  This is a chilling thought.

 

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology discusses the science of genetic engineering as having discovered the means to compromise or bypass life’s natural and evolved defenses.  Beyond Animal, Ego and Time states “What is happening in synthetic biology and to a large extent with genetic engineering is thousands of people are pursuing a genetic land rush by staking claims to own the genetics of life.”

The public conclusions of the scientific panels of the UK and Germany should give us a small window into what is happening in genetic engineering or, at a minimum, what is possible

Use the following links for more information:

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/09/german-ethics-council-weighs-in-.html

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/07mice-with-human-brain-cells-more.html

http://www.acmedsci.ac.uk/p47prid77.html (select Report Synopsis)

November 4, 2011, San Francisco, Genetic Engineering

 

 

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