I thought that I would write this post now as at the current time, with worldwide Covid killing millions; and the very high view that the disease was originally created by zoonosis transmission form animals held under stress in wet markets, to human beings; do we really want to delve further into ‘chimera’ research, involving more than one animal species ? – has nothing been learned from Covid ?
A zoonosis (plural zoonoses, or zoonotic diseases) is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, such as a bacterium, virus, parasite or prion) that has jumped from an animal (usually a vertebrate) to a human. Wet markets, in which animals are held under immense stress, are an ideal source of zoonotic disease transmission. It is strongly believed that Covid was a virus that jumped from animals to humans.
So now, is it really time to further investigative work on the ‘Chimera’ ?
What is chimera ?:
A chimera is essentially a single organism that’s made up of cells from two or more “individuals”—that is, it contains two sets of DNA, with the code to make two separate organisms. One way that chimeras can happen naturally in humans is that a fetus can absorb its twin.
It (chimera) is an issue that has been kicking around in animal rights for many years; it is not new; certainly not here in the UK; but with the current Covid situation we really need to look more at this.
Scientists claim to have made an ‘extraordinary medical advance’ by creating an embryo that is part human and part monkey. The creation of this human – monkey chimera as detailed as being described a ‘medical breakthrough’ by some; others describe it as a ‘Pandoras Box’ with serious ethical questions. I personally am in this ‘ethical questions’ camp.
In a series of experiments; researchers from the Salk Institute in California (USA) have injected human stem cells into early stage macaque monkey embryos. This procedure resulted in a number of chimeric embryos that survived for a period of around 19 days before they were destroyed. Despite the vast ethical concerns; researchers say that the chimera embryos can lead to a ‘much better understanding’ of early human development, biology and disease.
The Chimera, according to Greek mythology, was a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, composed of the parts of more than one animal. It is usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a tail that might end with a snake’s head.
Chimeras are organisms whose cells originate from two or more different organisms. Professor Juan Belmonte of the Salk Institute (USA) describes the research as being very useful for advancing biomedical research not only at the early stages of life, but also at the latest stage of life. He further declared that chimeric embryos could allow for the study of early human development and hold great potential in regenerative medicine as well as for producing human tissues and organs for transplant.
Professor Belmonte’s team worked with researchers in China; the original source of Covid and the particular zoonotic associated disease, as much of the research work was undertaken there to ‘avoid legal issues’. Chimeric embryos could thus allow scientists to conduct experiments that they are not currently permitted to do on human embryos because of the tight regulations. Experimenting on embryos containing some human cells could potentially lead to new treatments for diseases that are present at, or before birth, such as heart defects, down syndrome and spina bifida.
They also claim that Type 1 diabetes could be targeted by treatments emerging from chimera research. Using the human – monkey embryo research; scientists hope to ‘provide valuable insights’ by using animals that are closely related to humans. Or, in other words, they say that organs which originate in animals, such as pigs, could later be transplanted into human beings. ‘Interspecies chimeras’ are not new; and have been produced since the 1970’s, but so far, attempts involving human cells have been met with ‘very limited success’.
Professor Belmonte in the USA has worked with researchers from the Kumming University of Science and Technology at Yunnan (China) in a study. Six days after the monkey embryos were created; each was then injected with 25 human cells. The cells are known as ‘extended pluripotent stem cells’, which have the ability to develop into many different cell types and tissues both inside and OUTSIDE the embryo.
After one day, human cells were detected in 132 embryos, and after 10 days 103 of the chimeric embryos were still developing. But then, by day 19, only 3 chimeras were still alive.
Personal view – the creation of an embryo which is part human and part monkey (primate) raises significant ethical and philosophical concerns as to what it means to be ‘human’. With this research, are we as the human species once again attempting to dominate the natural systems of the world ? – plants, animals, species; the ‘who we are’ image.
Scientists behind this latest chimera research state that these chimeric embryos ‘offer new opportunities’, because we are unable to conduct certain types of experiments in humans. So, I thus see this as a ‘well it is ok to conduct the experiments on animals’; type thing then; who cares about the rights ? – we are the dominant species and can thus do as we wish.
Mahatma Gandhi, (1869–1948) once stated:
“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.
I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.
I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man“.
With this chimera research are we not opening up the can of worms to the future ?
Real questions will start to arise when techniques have improved to the point where embryo survival times are greatly improved, and we can ‘grow’ human spare parts in animals; only for them to be cut out and transplanted into our own bodies as we wish. This is the ultimate goal of this research; to make the human species even more dominant than they currently are; to make big bucks for the developers and organisations involved; whilst largely ignoring the rights of the primates and pigs who would be used as simple living ‘tools’ for the advancement of humankind; what a terrible thought; are there not enough of us ‘planet destroyers’ today, right now, 19/4/21, as it is, without the need for more ?
The most difficult issues lie in the future; and the question of potential animal viruses and disease being passed over to humans; or the opposite; as a result of future successful development. That is ‘life’, that is what makes us (currently) different to the primates; the whales. The dolphins and the wolves. We have all developed our own ways of survival and existence without interference from others.
Before any experiments are currently performed on chimeras; the key ethical question of their moral status has to be reviewed. Before they are even currently injected, experimented on, or their organs extracted; it is essential that their mental capacities and lives are properly assessed; and who does this ? – the ‘human’ no doubt !
We need new ways to understand the things we call ‘animals’; their mental lives and their relationships before we ever attempt to ‘use them’. We should never ‘use them’. I think a pig or battery hen in an intensive factory farm environment must be pretty ‘pissed off’ with the way is kept – it has an existence; not a life; for the benefit of whom ? – oh yes, us the human being. It is our own responsibility now to enact the Ghandi saying – that, “the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man“.
Maybe more should be done regarding research into the operation of the human brain; and why we, the destroyer of all; regards ourselves as superior to the simple but peaceful other creatures we share this planet with. Man has to look at man, and ask the questions of where and why he went so wrong in history.
We are not ‘dominant’; in fact we are ‘assholes’.