Much ancient folklore tell tales of different animal combinations such as a Griffin; which is a lion with the head and wings of an eagle, or a Mermaid; which is half fish and half human. Besides the Mermaid or Merman the most common heard tale is of the Centaur, half horse with its head resembling that of a man. Theories of the origin and truths of these tales have been the talk of the centuries. Recently, British scientists are challenging the folklores to make them reality for their good cause of medicine.
British stem cell experts are currently looking for permission to create a human rabbit by blending human cells with rabbit eggs to generate a hybrid embryo. There are three British teams that are working on this task right now seeking licenses from the Human Fertilization and the Embryology Authority that would allow them to create a human that is 0.1% rabbit. So what is the reasoning behind this request?
These human-rabbit embryos could be the key to studying and understanding incurable human diseases that come from stem cells that produce and or carry genetic defects. We all know how fertile rabbits are; using 0.1% of a rabbit’s gene there is a quicker chance in generating the stem cells rather than waiting up to ten years for human stem cell growth. Many researchers feel that by also mixing an animal into the equation, this leaves out the ethical tribulations of interfering with a human being’s life.
According to the team of scientists, the embryo will not be implanted into a woman and they have no desire on letting the embryo to develop any longer than two weeks. So who is going to give an egg to let this experiment be attempted? The team is looking towards spare eggs that are donated by couples undergoing fertility treatment.
Let’s stop right here for a second. 99.9% human makes it human, so you are interfering with human life because you are starting with a human egg. Whether or not it is 0.1% human or 99.9% human, there is still part of a human in there somewhere. Another concern is, those researchers that feel by mixing animal genes into the embryo will keep the ethical problems out of the lab, I highly doubt that. It’s like saying its not okay to tamper with human genes but it is okay to tamper with animal genes. It’s alive, even at 14 days, it is still alive.
Now I’m not on either the animal or the human’s side on this idea, however just because the animal can’t speak human doesn’t mean it’s not protesting. You would think after all of these centuries if rabbits were supposed to mix with humans they would have done it already. Evolution would have somehow taken its course. It sounds silly, but have you ever thought about the types of other animals that are out there that have bred on their own with no human interference? The most common hybrid is a mule; a male donkey that mated with a female horse. Even plants become hybrids naturally. The point is, if it happens naturally, nature intended it to happen whether it survives or dies. It is nature’s way of evolution and learning what works and doesn’t.
The reasoning behind this experiment is respectable. We are always looking for a way to save lives and save mankind; a lot of times it happens at the cost of others… and sometimes that cost saves millions of lives.
Also, you have to think about the egg donors. Would you be okay with one of your eggs with your 99.9% of your genes being merged with .1% of a bunny and then being destroyed after two weeks? You have something that is 99.9% you that is developing out there somewhere just to be tested and destroyed. Yeah, I know it is 0.1% rabbit, but there are many children out there that are born with severe genetic disorders and we don’t destroy them even if the doctors know about it during the pregnancy.
The proposal of this experiment was made in 2003 and it was approved this year, 2007. So what are the expectations now that it is approved? Much of the public seemed okay with the creation of the hybrid embryos for medical research. The research has been set on a path forward to create the way for ground-breaking therapies for spinal chord injuries; Alzheimer’s and even Parkinson ‘s disease.
This concept is a controversial one, and while it is still approved, the British government is now creating a fertility bill that will clarify that only human egg are sperm are to be used in creating embryos, although 61% of the public is for the proposal of mixing humans and animals to aid the understanding of certain diseases.
In conclusion, there really isn’t a conclusion. We shouldn’t play God or play around with Mother Nature and whether the embryos that are created are 14 minutes old or 14 days old, you have to think, just because it can’t breathe doesn’t mean it doesn’t live. There has to be something going on for cells to divide. But then again, stem cell research can ultimately save lives, if we ever get it right.
So, you decide. Do you accept the death of a living embryo to save a life, possibly your own; whether or not the embryo is human or animal or both?