In August 2016, the National Institutes of Health announced that it was lifting its ban on research that introduces stem cells from humans into animal embryos. Stem cells have the ability to evolve into any human cell and can grow into any human tissue. The goal of this type of research is to grow human tissues and eventually human replacement organs in animals. What an innovative way to improve upon transplantation medicine! But to realize this potential, we would create an organism that is part animal and part human! These hybrids are the stuff of ancient mythology. These mixtures of different animals are called chimeras after the mythical ancient Greek creature that was part lion, snake and goat. One goal of today’s research is to produce tissues and organs for experimentation that will improve our understanding of human disease. An alternative and longer term goal would be to produce organs directly for human transplantation. Imagine an infinite source of human organs – one wears out and you produce a new one as a replacement.
Today, the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine released a major new report and recommendations to ensure any such research done stateside in the future is performed responsibly and ethically.
strong>The implicit message is that whether we like it or not, a future of gene-edited humans is on its way.
Messing around with the genetic material of humans means that you are literally messing around with the future of the human race.
And once this genetic material starts being passed from generation to generation, it will literally be impossible to put the genie back into the bottle ever again.
Fortunately, there are some experts that are extremely alarmed by this new report
“The recommendations and conclusions of this report are unsettling and disappointing,” said Marcy Darnovsky, PhD, Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society. “Although they’re couched in apparently cautionary language, they actually constitute a green light for proceeding with efforts to modify the human germline — that is, to engineer the genes and traits that are passed on to future children and generations.”