A plan to mix human stem cells with animal embryos to create chimeras – those creatures that have part animal and part human elements – soon will be getting taxpayer funding, under a new proposal from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The federal agency said Thursday that it is requesting public comment on its plans to open the door to public funding of the concept that could result in “animal models with human tissues or organs for studying human development, disease pathology, and eventually organ transplantation.”
The National Institutes of Health had announced a moratorium on the funding last year, but the change now is being proposed due to the interest in mixing human and non-human cells, and seeing the results.
National Public Radio said there have been concerns over the potential work.
“One issue is that scientists might inadvertently create animals that have partly human brains, endowing them with some semblance of human consciousness or human thinking abilities. Another is that they could develop into animals with human sperm and eggs and breed, producing human embryos or fetuses inside animals or hybrid creatures,” the report said.
But NPR said scientists argue they could prevent those outcomes.
WND has previously reported on such “transhuman” goals. In one case, a U.S. biotech company was given permission to recruit 20 brain-dead patients to test if parts of their central nervous systems can be regenerated.
The company, Bioquark Inc., plans to use a soup of stem cells and peptides on the brains of the patients over a six-week period to see if it can jump-start their functions.
Philadelphia-based Bioquark asks on its website: “What if your body came with a restart button?”
WND also reported last winter on the growing promise of anti-aging or “gene therapy” science, a technology known as CRISPR/Cas9. It purports to deliver immortality to human beings and has attracted support from some of the world’s richest men, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Ray Kurzwell of Google, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, venture capitalist Paul Glenn and Russian multi-millionaire Omitry Itskov.
Beside injecting the brain with stem cells and peptides, scientists at Bioquark say they will use lasers and nerve stimulation therapies that have been shown to bring people out of comas.
Christian author and filmmaker Tom Horn has warned scientists are redefining what it means to be human, with the goal of “transcending” humanity.
“Right here in North Carolina at your university, they have what is called a transgenic lab, which means they have mice that have human genetic material, for testing to see if the human parts in that animal are responding,” he told TV host Sid Roth in an interview at the time.
Using the CRISPR gene-editing technique, one university lab cured cancer in a group of rats, but the rats started aging quickly and died at half-life, “and nobody knows why that happened,” Horn said. “There is a danger in playing God because you’re not God and you don’t know.”
Horn has been researching and writing about transhumanism for years, resulting in his documentary, “Inhuman,” recently won a Silver Telly Award.
He says there are ethical issues.
“These are the questions philosophers and theologians have debated since the dawn of time, but in the Bible only mankind is described as having God’s breath breathed into them at the moment of their creation,” Horn said. “For conservative Christians, this should be a major point of debate regarding the ‘ethics’ of bringing people back from the dead.”
Could a person be returned alive, and, “What would they then be?” Horn asks.
“Are they a living construct no longer suitable as a fit-extension of the Holy Spirit? Or would they be fine and the miraculous science that brought them back to life celebrated by all believers? These were the type of difficult questions we sought to answer in the documentary ‘Inhuman.’”
Carl Gallups, a Christian pastor, radio host and author of several books, including “Be Thou Prepared” and “Final Warning,” said there are moral and ethical dilemmas.
“What entity or governmental power will make the decisions concerning who gets their death ‘reversed’ and who must die?” Gallups asked at the time.
The National Institutes of Health said the basics of the experimentation have been around for a long time.
“It is common practice to evaluate the potency of pluripotent human cells – which can become any tissue in the body – through introducing them into rodents,” the agency said.
Now, the agency said, “an increasing number of researchers are interested in growing human tissues and organs in animals by introducing pluripotent human cells into early animal embryos. Formation of these types of human-animal organism, referred to as ‘chimeras,’ holds tremendous potential for disease modeling, drug testing, and perhaps eventual organ transplant.”
It warned, however, of ethical concerns over the “uncertainty about the effects of human cells on off-target organs and tissues in the chimeric animals, particularly in the nervous system.”
It’s request for comment notes that there will be strict guidelines for how such procedures are used.
For example, the present ban on introducing human embryonic cells into non-human primate blastocyst-stage embryos is being expanded to include restrictions on “early stage (pre-blastocyst) of non-human primate embryos.”
The comments started coming in right away, including one from Theresa Pham, who identifies herself as a physician “in the field of research.”
“I feel strongly that this use of chimera crosses an ethical line,” she wrote. “Advancing our knowledge in some areas of science can’t and should not be approached with … presumptuous naivete. Some adverse consequences are much more profound than others.
“If the predictions are wrong and the safeguards are not enough, then the price will be the cost of our humanity as well as these new lifeforms that did not ask to participate in this frightening enterprise.”
NIH officials didn’t have those concerns.
“I am confident that these proposed changes will enable the NIH research community to move this promising area of science forward in a responsible manner,” said Carrie Wolinetz, the NIH’s associate director for science policy.
But LifeNews commented, “The Obama administration today announced it has flung the door wide open to scientists making grisly human-animal hybrids. After overturning the Bush administration limits on forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, this is the latest move by President Barack Obama to manipulate and destroy human life in unethical experiments.”