Chimeras, Hybrids, and Interspecies Research

Chimeras, Hybrids, and Interspecies Research: Politics and Policymaking

Andrea L. Bonnicksen
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Chimeras, Hybrids, and Interspecies Research
    Book Description:

    In his 2006 State of the Union speech, President George W. Bush asked the U.S. Congress to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research, such as the creation of animalûhuman hybrids. The president's message echoed that of a 2004 report by the President's Council on Bioethics, which recommended that hybrid humanûanimal embryos be banned by Congress.Discussions of early interspecies research, in which cells or DNA are interchanged between humans and nonhumans at early stages of development, can often devolve into sweeping statements, colorful imagery, and confusing policy. Although today's policy advisory groups are becoming more informed, debate is still limited by the interchangeable use of terms such as chimeras and hybrids, a tendency to treat all forms of interspecies alike, the failure to distinguish between laboratory research and procreation, and not enough serious policy justification. Andrea Bonnicksen seeks to understand reasons behind support of and disdain for interspecies research in such areas as chimerism, hybridization, interspecies nuclear transfer, cross-species embryo transfer, and transgenics. She highlights two claims critics make against early interspecies studies: that the research will violate human dignity and that it can lead to procreation. Are these claims sufficient to justify restrictive policy? Bonnicksen carefully illustrates the challenges of making policy for sensitive and often sensationalized researchùresearch that touches deep-seated values and that probes the boundary between human and nonhuman animals.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-719-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    AT ISSUE IN THIS BOOK are studies that combine genes, gametes, embryos, or embryonic stem (ES) cells from human and nonhuman species at the earliest stages of development. What is here called early inter species research (ISR) involves the shared presence of human and/or animal embryos and ES cells in a potentially inheritable way. The prospect of such studies has been flagged, whether justifiably or not, by a number of observers and policy makers as problematic.

    One example of early ISR is the injection of human ES cells into a mouse blastocyst (four-to six-day embryo of approximately three hundred cells)...

  7. Chapter 1 Chimeras
    (pp. 27-58)

    THE IMAGE OF THE MYTHOLOGICAL chimera, a “symbolic monster composed of incongruous parts,” orients our minds to the idea of mixed parts coddled together (Anker and Nelkin 2004, 82). Although chimeras in ancient Greece were regarded as “dangerous, formidable, and powerful beasts, representing fantastic yet uncivilized and chaotic forces in nature that confronted mankind,” chimeras in art today present more benign personas. Thomas Grunfeld’s Misfit (St. Bernard), a painting of a placid St. Bernard with a sheep’s head, is regarded as a “classic chimera” (Anker and Nelkin 2004, 81, 108). Similarly, Stephan Balkenhol’s Three Hybrids, 1995 features three wood animal/men...

  8. Chapter 2 Hybrids
    (pp. 59-76)

    THE IDEA OF A HYBRID is a powerful symbol, and the animal-human hybrid is a particularly well-known metaphor for research run amok. The thought of hybrids gives skeptics reasons to be wary about biotechnology; for example, in a 2004 report the President’s Council on Bioethics (PCB) urged a “bright line” to be drawn against fertilizing human eggs with animal sperm or vice versa: “One bright line should be drawn at the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos, produced ex vivo by fertilization of human egg by animal (for example, chimpanzee) sperm (or the reverse)” (President’s Council on Bioethics 2004, 220).


  9. Chapter 3 Cybrids, Cross-Species Embryo Transfer, and Transgenics
    (pp. 77-110)

    WHILE RESEARCHING HIS DAUGHTER’S MYSTERIOUS disease that brought with it seizures and kidney breakdown, James Reston Jr. noticed this headline in the New York Times: “Human-Cow Hybrid Cells Are Topic of Ethics Panel” (Reston 2006, 183). Looking for answers for his daughter, Reston responded with bafflement: “To this nonscientist, it seemed as if medical science was on the road to producing Minotaurs in the new millennium.” At issue was something more prosaic, but the headline highlighted the sensation that comes with novel interspecies prospects. This chapter looks at three topics that are part of policy deliberations but have not captured...

  10. Chapter 4 Beliefs about Interspecies Interventions
    (pp. 111-130)

    WHY DOES EARLY INTERSPECIES RESEARCH (ISR) matter? What accounts for the animus by some and largely silent acceptance by others? Understanding some of the bases for conflicting views helps indicate how early ISR is political in the way it attracts attention, elicits emotion, and prompts action to protect values thought to be threatened. Of the many beliefs that animate the matter of early ISR, four are considered in this chapter: (1) orientation toward biotechnology, (2) acceptance of intuitive reactions, (3) trust in ability to draw lines, and (4) belief in firmness of the line between human and nonhuman animals.


  11. Conclusion Is Early Interspecies Research Fundamentally Distinct?
    (pp. 131-138)

    WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE of the place of “animal-human hybrids” in bioethics and policy? Hybrids, along with genetic alterations, cloning, and ectogenesis (artificial uterus), entered the literature of bioethics and policy in the 1970s as a metaphor for unleashed biotechnology. This metaphor continues today: “Some transforming powers are already here. The Pill. In vitro fertilization. Bottled embryos. Surrogate wombs. Cloning. Genetic screening. Genetic manipulation. Organ harvesting. Mechanical spare parts. Chimeras” (Kass 2002, 5). Framed as a future possibility lying at the bottom of a slippery slope, the integration of human and animal biological material for reproductive ends melded into...

  12. References
    (pp. 139-156)
  13. Index
    (pp. 157-166)