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Human-Animal Hybrid Research: What is a Chimera? Essay

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The word “chimera” is that usually only related to mythology. However, it can also be used to describe a type of research that combines organisms composed of genetic material (usually cellular) from two distinct species (Eberl & Ballard, 2009). This term can be applied to research using genetic material from humans and animals. With this kind of human-animal hybrid research, scientists are able to perform experiments using things like human embryonic stem cells without injury to people or animals. There is great debate, though, that this kind of research will lead to scientists adding to the development of new species of animals capable of more human characteristics, such as moral thinking, and that these scientists are “playing God.” With careful regulation, scientists should be allowed to continue to perform experiments on human-animal chimeras to be able to advance in knowledge about HIV research, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases.
Background
Definitions
Chimera. The word originally comes from that of Greek mythology and describes an animal that is a combination of a lion, a serpent, and a goat (Sherringham, 2008). Sherringham (2008) describes the present-day definition of how it relates to science and research as organisms “comprised of at least two genetically distinct populations of cells originating from independent embryos,” but the combined genetics are not a result of sexual reproduction (Sherringham, 2008, p. 767). The word chimera can also be used to refer “to a biological entity composed of genetic material from members of two distinct species” (Eberl & Ballard, 2009, p. 471).
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). These “stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vit...


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...10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061900
National Academy of Sciences. (2014). Who we are. Retrieved from http://www.nas.edu/about/whoweare/index.html
Obama, B. (2009). Removing barriers to responsible scientific research involving human stem cells. Federal Register, 74(48).
Sherringham, T. (2008). Mice, men, and monsters: Opposition to chimera research and the scope of federal regulation. California Law Review, 96(3), 765-800.
Streiffer, R. (2010). Chimeras, moral status, and public policy: Implications of the abortion debate for public policy on human/nonhuman chimera research. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 38(2), 238-250. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00484.x
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health. (2010). What are embryonic stem cells? Stem Cell Information. Retrieved from http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics3.aspx



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