1. Joined
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    01 Feb '17 21:04
    Soooo, this came out today: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867416317524

    They took human stem cells and injected them into a pig embryo. Lo and behold, they ended up with a human-pig hybrid embryo. There's a lot of promise in the technology (replacement organs for example) but it brushes up on some very delicate ethical boundaries as well. I mean, there are human neurons in this thing.

    What do you guys/gals think about this? Should scientists be allowed to do this? Is it ok to create these hybrids for harvesting organs? What if they used your cells?

    In addition to the human ethics they also made mouse-rat hybrids, and showed they could live a full life as adults. They suggest that through genome editing of the host embryo, it was possible to generate a rat embryo with a mouse pancreas.

    From the article: "We further show in this study that a rat-mouse chimera could live a full mouse lifespan (about 2 years) and exhibit molecular signatures characteristic of aged cells. This demonstrates that cells from two different species, which diverged ∼18 million years ago, can live in a symbiotic environment and are able to support normal organismal aging"

    That's wild. They've just circumvented speciation.
  2. Cape Town
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    01 Feb '17 21:18
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    What do you guys/gals think about this? Should scientists be allowed to do this?
    I don't think they should be using human cells just yet.

    That's wild. They've just circumvented speciation.
    I am not sure what you mean by 'circumvented speciation', but hybridisation is hardly new. Mules for example, and many other animals, but in the plant world, it is full on standard practice and gene swapping goes on a lot in nature and has been used in GMO's (both animal and plant).

    In the chase of chimeras of course it isn't true hybridisation. Half the cells are one organism and half the other, and any offspring will only be from one of them. Hybrids actually mix genes, which in my mind is a step further.
  3. Joined
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    01 Feb '17 21:291 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I don't think they should be using human cells just yet.

    [b]That's wild. They've just circumvented speciation.

    I am not sure what you mean by 'circumvented speciation', but hybridisation is hardly new. Mules for example, and many other animals, but in the plant world, it is full on standard practice and gene swapping goes on a lot in nature and h ...[text shortened]... g will only be from one of them. Hybrids actually mix genes, which in my mind is a step further.[/b]
    Yes, Chimeras and hybrids are not the same thing. This is the first example I'm aware of where cells from two different mammalian species coexist happily in the same organism. Your point is a good one though, and circumvented was probably not the right word to use.

    I think chimeras are on thinner ice, ethically, than hybrids. With a chimera, you actually have 100% bonafide human cells developing into a brain inside another organism. A human-pig hybrid organism would no longer be human. Right?
  4. Joined
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    01 Feb '17 21:441 edit
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    Yes, Chimeras and hybrids are not the same thing. This is the first example I'm aware of where cells from two different mammalian species coexist happily in the same organism. Your point is a good one though, and circumvented was probably not the right word to use.

    I think chimeras are on thinner ice, ethically, than hybrids. With a chimera, you actuall ...[text shortened]... to a brain inside another organism. A human-pig hybrid organism would no longer be human. Right?
    Actually I take that back. It's not the first example. But it is novel in approach and scope.

    I guess my major thought reading that paper was whether we were inadvertently transferring human consciousness or intelligence to a pig. Then, certainly, it would be unethical to do the experiment right? How would you know?
  5. Cape Town
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    01 Feb '17 21:46
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    I think chimeras are on thinner ice, ethically, than hybrids. With a chimera, you actually have 100% bonafide human cells developing into a brain inside another organism. A human-pig hybrid organism would no longer be human. Right?
    I don't think the ethics are different. The real question is what you base your ethics on. Is it genes or intelligence or religion or gut feeling or something else. But I think for almost any one of those, both chimeras and hybrids would have similar ethical implications.

    This is the first example I'm aware of where cells from two different mammalian species coexist happily in the same organism.
    It raises interesting questions about how the immune system copes. Maybe we should be implanting small quantities of pig cells in babies, then when they grow up we can safely give them pig organs without their immune systems rejecting them. But I still think a lot more animal testing needs to be done before we do any of this with human cells.
  6. Cape Town
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    01 Feb '17 21:50
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    I guess my major thought reading that paper was whether we were inadvertently transferring human consciousness or intelligence to a pig. Then, certainly, it would be unethical to do the experiment right? How would you know?
    I don't think it would be 'certainly unethical'. What is so wrong with an intelligent pig? I am sure some ethical systems will have a problem, but it is not a foregone conclusion that all will. I do think that we all feel uncomfortable about such things and we should avoid them if possible and discuss them more before doing them.
  7. Standard memberDeepThought
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    01 Feb '17 22:22
    This reminded me of one of my favourite pieces of science - the mfap hypothesis:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/12/06/the-mfap-hypothesis-of-human-origins-rides-again/
  8. Joined
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    01 Feb '17 22:47
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    This reminded me of one of my favourite pieces of science - the mfap hypothesis:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/12/06/the-mfap-hypothesis-of-human-origins-rides-again/
    That's a great, humorous read. Thank you for the link.
  9. Subscribersonhouse
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    02 Feb '17 13:061 edit
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    Soooo, this came out today: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867416317524

    They took human stem cells and injected them into a pig embryo. Lo and behold, they ended up with a human-pig hybrid embryo. There's a lot of promise in the technology (replacement organs for example) but it brushes up on some very delicate ethical boundaries ...[text shortened]... e able to support normal organismal aging"

    That's wild. They've just circumvented speciation.
    Here is what I think: a new development in biology like this, once the cat is out of the bag it's all over, SOMEONE will indeed make a pig-human embryo and have it go full term just to see what flies. And I imagine it will be more than ONE someone. So what other combinations can they think of that can work like the pig human one? Chimp/human? Dolphin/human? Dolphin with hands?
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    02 Feb '17 20:01
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Here is what I think: a new development in biology like this, once the cat is out of the bag it's all over, SOMEONE will indeed make a pig-human embryo and have it go full term just to see what flies. And I imagine it will be more than ONE someone. So what other combinations can they think of that can work like the pig human one? Chimp/human? Dolphin/human? Dolphin with hands?
    I'm absolutely ok with it, as long as there's a valid rationale for doing the experiment. This is an important part of bioethics, to ensure that no one is whimsically killing lab mice. For example, I see the rationale for growing a human pancreas inside a pig. This has huge commercial interest, since it could potentially lead to a diabetes cure. But I don't think the development of a human brain inside another organism has similar benefits.

    In the US we have human subjects review panels that scrutinize protocols before doing the study. The purpose is really designed to protect the rights and privacy of the patients, and that donors are informed of what their cells will be used for. I'm having a hard time imagining the conversation between patient and doctor where he says, "We're going to take your skin cells, reprogram them into embryonic cells, then inject them in large quantities into a pig embryo. Is that ok?"
  11. Subscribersonhouse
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    03 Feb '17 01:42
    Originally posted by wildgrass
    I'm absolutely ok with it, as long as there's a valid rationale for doing the experiment. This is an important part of bioethics, to ensure that no one is whimsically killing lab mice. For example, I see the rationale for growing a human pancreas inside a pig. This has huge commercial interest, since it could potentially lead to a diabetes cure. But I don' ...[text shortened]... them into embryonic cells, then inject them in large quantities into a pig embryo. Is that ok?"
    Sure, if that is indeed where this leads, but what about the crazy Mengele type in a jungle somewhere getting his hands on this technology? I fear there will be horrible mutations come out of it, remember, almost everything is a double edged sword. It will no doubt be used for the good of mankind but there is that nut fringe....
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    03 Feb '17 09:344 edits
    So if we ever see either someone walking around with a muddy squealing pig head or what appears to be a pig walking around with a squealing human head, we have some theories to explain that.
  13. Subscribersonhouse
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    03 Feb '17 10:29
    Originally posted by humy
    So if we ever see either someone walking around with a muddy squealing pig head or what appears to be a pig walking around with a squealing human head, we have some theories to explain that.
    Or a bear with human intelligence....
  14. Subscribermoonbus
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    03 Feb '17 10:51
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Island_of_Doctor_Moreau
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    03 Feb '17 17:141 edit
    Originally posted by moonbus
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Island_of_Doctor_Moreau
    The only thing stopping this in my mind is the cost. It would be prohibitively expensive to set up and operate a facility that can do this. Government funding is subjected to review, and I think in this case did not approve letting the human-pig experiment reach full term. An individual or small group would have a difficult time making it work outside of a university setting. And for a company, there isn't (yet) a commercial application that makes economic sense.

    So there's a few small-ish hurdles. Doctor Moreau is an excellent book. Maybe it's time to re-read it, given that the dystopian future is nearly upon us.
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