If you're not knitting, the terrorists win

(My mostly on-topic ramblings about knitting. And life in general. My life in specific.)

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Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a middle aged mother of 2 grown children and wife to a man who doesn't seem to mind my almost heroin-like yarn addiction. I spend my time writing, knitting, and generally stressing out.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Science, What Have You Done?

Have you heard about the scientist who is working on pig/human chimeras? No? Okay. Listen. This is interesting, frightening, exciting, and disturbing, all at once. I'm going to simplify because I'm not a scientist.

Ok, so this scientist, Pablo Ross, is creating and studying these chimeras in the hopes of being able to create a process for, say, growing a new pancreas. So, what they do is, they take a pig embryo and inject it with a molecule that tells the pig embryo not to grow a pancreas. Then, they take some human cells (these are like stem cells, but they come from adult skin cells) and they inject them into the embryo.

So, what should happen is that you get a pig embryo that grows a human pancreas. And because the human cells you've used come from the person who will get the new pancreas, there won't be any rejection issues. Nice and neat, right?

But, the thing is, there's no real way of telling these human cells to just make a pancreas and nothing else. They might make a pancreas. They might also make a brain. So now you've got a pig embryo with a human brain. And what do you do with that? Is it human? What qualities make a human being a human? How do we feel now about harvesting that human pancreas from a pig with a human brain?

Worse, (I think this is worse) what if the cells made reproductive organs? So now maybe you have a female pig with human ovaries. Could that pig produce a pig/human hybrid? What if that female pig mated with a male pig with human male reproductive glands. Could you have a pig give birth to a human baby? Would this pig be able to impregnate a human woman? Or would a human man be able to impregnate a female pig/human? What would the offspring be?

It's practically science fiction. No wonder there is a moratorium on government funding of this kind of research. (Although this guy Ross has gotten funding from other avenues so he can continue his work.) It's fascinating, yes. But, if you ask me, I think we probably shouldn't mess around with something we don't understand until we fully understand it.

Sure, Ross says he's only letting these embryos develop 28 days and then he disects them. But you know what? That's actually the whole basis behind several science fiction stories, including one by Michael Crichton--Oh, we're only going to let this embryo go so far and then destroy it. But, whoops, something happened and the embryo grew to term and now what do we do? I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to quote another one of Crichton's characters.


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