Tuesday, April 05, 2005


What is the origin of the word Chimera (ki-MER-ah).

The excerpt that follows is from an article titled Of Mice, Men and In-Between, Scientists Debate Blending Of Human, Animal Forms(1).

In Minnesota, pigs are being born with human blood in their veins.

In Nevada, there are sheep whose livers and hearts are largely human.

In California, mice peer from their cages with human brain cells firing inside their skulls.

These are not outcasts from "The Island of Dr. Moreau," the 1896 novel by H.G. Wells in which a rogue doctor develops creatures that are part animal and part human. They are real creations of real scientists, stretching the boundaries of stem cell research.

Biologists call these hybrid animals chimeras, after the mythical Greek creature with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail. They are the products of experiments in which human stem cells were added to developing animal fetuses.

Imagine, said Robert Streiffer, a professor of philosophy and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, a human-chimpanzee chimera endowed with speech and an enhanced potential to learn -- what some have called a "humanzee."

Where will this genetic engineering LEAD? What if??

The most radical experiment, still not conducted, would be to inject human stem cells into an animal embryo and then transfer that chimeric embryo into an animal's womb. Scientists suspect the proliferating human cells would spread throughout the animal embryo as it matured into a fetus and integrate themselves into every organ.

Such "humanized" animals could have countless uses. They would almost certainly provide better ways to test a new drug's efficacy and toxicity, for example, than the ordinary mice typically used today.

But few scientists are eager to do that experiment. The risk, they say, is that some human cells will find their way to the developing testes or ovaries, where they might grow into human sperm and eggs. If two such chimeras -- say, mice -- were to mate, a human embryo might form, trapped in a mouse.

In one ongoing set of experiments, Jeffrey L. Platt at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has created human-pig chimeras by adding human-blood-forming stem cells to pig fetuses. The resulting pigs have both pig and human blood in their vessels. And it's not just pig blood cells being swept along with human blood cells; some of the cells themselves have merged, creating hybrids.

It is important to have learned that human and pig cells can fuse, Platt said, because he and others have been considering transplanting modified pig organs into people and have been wondering if that might pose a risk of pig viruses getting into patient's cells. Now scientists know the risk is real, he said, because the viruses may gain access when the two cells fuse.

Perhaps the most ambitious efforts to make use of chimeras come from Irving Weissman, director of Stanford University's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine.

Now Weissman says he is thinking about making chimeric mice whose brains are 100 percent human. He proposes keeping tabs on the mice as they develop. If the brains look as if they are taking on a distinctly human architecture -- a development that could hint at a glimmer of humanness -- they could be killed, he said. If they look as if they are organizing themselves in a mouse brain architecture, they could be used for research.

Notice that Mr. Weissman said they could be killed; not would be killed.

And now I have to ask: has anyone thought of the possibility of these "smart mice" escaping the lab with 100% human brains. Would they learn like humans? Mice are hard enough to kill let alone a mouse that may be as smart as you!

Wait. I have only scratched the surface.

What do you do when your favorite pet dies. You call Genetic Savings and Clone (No, I am not kidding!). You can now clone your favorite pet for a mere $32,000.

Now you may be thinking: What about genetically modified foods? This is a very valid concern. Why is this a concern? Because of incidents such as the 2000 StarLink incident where genetically modified corn not intended for human consumption found its way into Taco Bell products.(2)

The agriculture industry must figure out how to prevent what critics call Frankenfoods from wreaking havoc on the natural food chain.

Critics worry that newfangled crops will creep into the wild and cross-pollinate with natural species, potentially damaging plant diversity and maybe even endangering the people who eat them. Worse yet genetically modified crops could render native plants sterile, through cross pollination, unable to reproduce. How is this possible?

In the mid-1990s, corporations such as Monsanto (MON) Co. started tweaking the genes of common food crops.

They developed a process to produce what have been called "Terminator Genes"; what The Economist magazine lebelled The Demon Seed in a feature article published June 13, 1998.(3)

Terminator Genes(4)

Research in biotechnology and genetic engineering is very expensive. Monsanto is reported to have spent $500 million developing Roundup Ready genes, or about as much as the entire annual USDA research budget. Naturally, they want to protect potential profits from this valuable property. Farmers who buy Monsanto seeds are required to sign a contract that stipulates what kinds of pesticides can be used on fields as well as an agreement not to save seed or allow patented crops to cross with other varieties. (Now how is a farmer going to do that on a windy day to acres of crops?) Seed sleuths investigate to ensure that contracts are fulfilled. By inserting unique hidden sequences in their synthetic genes, forensic molecular biologists can detect the presence of patented genetic material in fields for which royalties weren't paid. Already Monsanto has taken legal action against more than 300 farmers for replanting proprietary seeds. Farmers claim they can't prevent transgenic pollen from blowing onto their fields and introducing genes against their will. A whole new set of legal precedents is likely to be established by these suits.

A new weapon has recently been introduced in this struggle that many people regard as quite sinister. Using genetic research of a USDA scientist, a small company called Delta and Pine Land developed genetic material officially entitled "gene protection technology" but commonly known as "terminator" genes. The terminator complex includes a toxic gene from a noncrop plant stitched together with two other bits of coding that keep the killer gene dormant until late in the crop's development, when the toxin affects only the forming seeds. Thus, although the crop yield is about normal, there is no subsequent generation and no worry about farmers saving and replanting. They have to buy new seed every year. Delta was quickly purchased by Monsanto for $1 billion, or hundreds of times the small company's book value. This may have been the only time a whole company was purchased just to get a gene complex.

Engineered sterility is not uncommon; it is widely used in producing hybrid crops such as maize. What is unusual about this gene-set is that it can be moved easily from one species to another, and it can be packaged in every seed sold by the parent company. It's also unique to deliberately introduce a toxin into the part that people eat. So what's wrong with a company trying to protect its research investment? For one thing, there's a worry that the toxins might be harmful to consumers, even though toxicity tests so far show no danger. Furthermore these genes may escape. What if some of our major crops become self-sterile and can no longer reproduce? A more immediate concern is the economic effects in developing countries. While seed saving is not common on farms in most developed countries, it is customary and economically necessary in many poorer parts of the world. Melvin Oliver, the principal inventor of the terminator genes, admits that "the technology primarily targets Second and Third World markets"-in effect, guaranteeing intellectual property rights even in countries where patent protection is weak or nonexistent.

And I might add ensuring the possibility of starvation in Second and Third World countries due to the sterility of the seeds produced from the first crop grown from genetically modified seed containing the terminator gene. This places a large burden on small farmers, especially in developing countries, by forcing them to buy new seeds every year. Saving seeds for planting the next years crop is a fundamental human right which has existed in for centuries. Monsanto and other companies performing seed hybridization through genetic tweaking want to eliminate that right.

Now that you have read about the history of the Terminator Gene we will refer once again to the The Economist magazine article noted previously. The Economist is "an influential establishment magazine published in London and sold in the U.S.A. and throughout the world. The writer of the revealing article admitted that introducing the Terminator Gene into agricultural seeds and crops could lead to dangerous, unforeseen consequences. However, the magazine endorsed the new technology as a potential money-maker for multinational corporations with potentially significant benefits to humanity. Why, then, did the magazine choose for its article title the eye-opening provocative phrase, demon seed?(5)

After our very brief discussion I think you know the answer.

I have discussed the ramifications of creating human-animal hybrids and genetically modified food crops.

I am not the only one who foresaw the very real danger that this represents if human-animal hybrids form new cellular toxins and hybrid cells which enter the human genome; or if the virgin seed banks maintained by companies such as Monsanto, etc. are lost or destroyed when crops are bio-engineered to no longer reproduce.

"Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled." Deuteronomy 22:9 NIV

"'Keep my decrees.
"'Do not mate different kinds of animals.
"'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed." Leviticus 19:19 NIV


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1. Rick Weiss, Of Mice, Men and In-Between, Scientists Debate Blending Of Human, Animal Forms, Washington Post, November 20, 2004.
2. Arlene Weintraub and Pallavi Gogoi, The Outcry over "Terminator" Genes in Food, Critics fear such safeguards present fresh genetic perils, July 14, 2003,
( 03_28/b3841091.htm+Terminator+gene&hl=en)
3.Texe Marrs, Days Of Hunger, Days of Chaos: The Coming Great Food Shortages in America, (Austin, Texas: Rivercrest Publishing)1999. p.101
4.Principles of Environmental Science, Online Learning Center, Additional Case Studies, Terminator Genes ( chapter7/additional_case_studies.html +terminator+gene&hl=en)
5.Texe Marrs, Days Of Hunger, Days of Chaos: The Coming Great Food Shortages in America, (Austin, Texas: Rivercrest Publishing) 1999. p.101

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