Friday, September 23, 2005

Are You a Man or a Mouse? Blending Humans and Animals

This one harkens back to the very first item ever posted on the 522: Chimera!?! Chalupa!?! Let's Call the Whole Thing Off. Most recently, this ...

Chromosome transplant in mice could provide clue to Down's syndrome illnesses ... quote ...

Scientists have successfully transplanted human chromosomes into mice, a first that promises to transform medical research into the genetic causes of disease. The mice were genetically engineered to carry a copy of human chromosome 21, a string of about 250 genes. About one in a thousand people are born with an extra copy of the chromosome, a genetic hiccup that causes Down's syndrome.

Genetic studies of the mice will help scientists to nail down which genes give rise to medical conditions which are prevalent among people with Down's syndrome, such as impaired brain development, heart defects, behavioural abnormalities, Alzheimer's disease and leukaemia.

... and ...

But according to David King, of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert, the potential breakthrough comes at too high a cost. "Creating organisms with whole chromosomes from another species is genetic engineering taken to another level.

"Before, researchers have said they're not making big changes because they're only inserting the odd gene into animals. If you're talking about creating something with a whole human chromosome in it, you have to ask is this really a mouse any more? Is it starting to be a new species, a hybrid between a mouse and a human? If more chromosomes are put in, are we going to have to start giving these things pseudo human rights?"

Dr King said the research could lead to technologies that would allow humans to be genetically engineered. "Once Britain has a clear ban on human genetic engineering, I'll be much happier for scientists to do these studies with mice. But they're developing techniques that could be applied to human beings and, in essence, that leads to a new form of eugenics," he said.

How far will we go to stave off death and disease? Science seems to be willing to go however far it takes, even to creating manimals.