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UK researchers urge limits on human-animal research

Edited as of Sat 23 Jul 2011 - 17:57
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British medical researchers are calling for tighter regulation on research involving animals with human tissue or genes, while cautiously approving some experiments, the BBC reports.

Professor Christopher Shaw highlighted objectionable 'category three' experiments such as:

  • the mixing of non-human primate and human cells to make an embryo
  • the mixing of human and non-human gametes (reproductive cells)
  • the replacement of monkey brain cells with human ones to gain human characteristics

Dr Robin Lovell-Badge suggested a gap between fantasy and reality:

Everyone laughs at talking meerkats and cats with opposable thumbs, but if we were actually doing that in the labs I don't think people would be so happy.

Read: Animals containing human material (synopsis) – Exploring the boundaries (evaluation)

The Academy of Medical Sciences called for the Animal Procedures Committee to be expanded to provide advice and oversight of such research.

However, group members concluded that the benefit of humanizing animals for medical research could justify harm to animals, and were:

...not persuaded by the argument that humanising animals to benefit our own species introduces a new level of exploitation into the relationships between humans and animals.

The Academy claimed their survey "showed a high degree of public acceptance of ACHM research provided it is well regulated, and justified".

Medical correspondent Fergus Walsh solicited comments in his blog.


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Bahahahaha. So sounds like we're not far off from anthros with this.

Problem, humans?

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Oh, no, we're still far off from that. We aren't entirely certain how doing the things mentioned would effect the chimera. Plus the fact that, you know, the fact that it's illegal an' all kinda hinders progress--same reason we don't have human clones.

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We're not quite there yet. I believe the intent is to have regulations in place before people actually start doing it.

Unfortunately, the part that people had most problems with gets to the heart of what furry fandom is about: granting the mental or physical characteristics of humans to animals. They don't mind using research to extend their own lives, though.

(Personally I'm a fan of doing things because we can, rather than spending time figuring out whether or not we should.)

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Sometimes I wish the fandom would let wish-fulfillment remain wish-fulfillment.

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Anyone curious about the techniques involved in genetic engineering for medical research should read chapters two and three of Animals containing human material, which provide detailed examples and further references.

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Any human-animal hybrid is more likely to look like something out of horror than Disney. And not like werewolf movie horror or even Island of Dr. Moreau. More like the The Fly remake, except without Jeff Goldblum's personality, either.

Though, apparently, Green Reaper isn't exactly in Goldblum's fan club.

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I only ever saw the original. Think I preferred the Simpsons' take on it. (Heck, that's true for most movies.)

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I only ever saw the remake.

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I was actually thinking of writing something along these lines. There were recently a few articles that showed up in my feeds on animals and research. A bit on Chimpanzees, a bit on trying to reduce the number of animal experiments and all that sort of thing.

Some of it's really interesting, both the science and cause it's really on the edges of ethics. I'm torn between protecting animals from experiments but also the need to do them. The problem with such discussions, especially with the public, is that the people involved often don't have any idea what's happening. I doubt many politicians understand what's going in the science and so there's not really a way for them to make decisions about it. The scientists, and presumably ethicists, at least know what their talking about. I had to do an animal ethics class for my degree and you have to get ethical permission before using animals as well as saying exactly why you need them and why you can't use alternatives, 'lower' animals and fewer animals. Of course there the problem becomes trying to use as few animals while still getting information that is relevant, otherwise the whole experiment is a waste.

Also most furs never seem to understand how far from being useful any of this is to them. You often see posts about making real anthros or transforming people but we really can't do anything like that.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Exactly! It's impossible to alter genetics after the fact.

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Who knows what the future will bring? A lot of things were impossible fifty years ago, yet are commonplace today.

They're looking to put pig's hearts and lungs in humans now. I don't see why you couldn't engineer a big cat matching your own immune profile, cut its tail off off, stick it to your coccyx, and link it up to electrodes in your brain.

It would be horrifically expensive, dangerous, ethically questionable, and you'd spend months training it, but it could probably be done if some billionaire set their mind to it.

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Which electrodes? I know humans only use 10% of their brain, but which ones would be able to control the tail effectively? It would take a lot of trial and error, and the result would probably be a spastic Twitch Man with a cat tail.

(Also, on ethics: could one not simply construct the tail?)

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This would be a topic of research. They seem to be able to do it with artificial hands, though.

How do you propose to construct a real, living tail? I don't want a mechanical imitation!

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Yes, but we can test and see which ones operate the hands by sending small electrical impulses to the right location. Applying the same to tails would require attaching the tail itself, allowing it to heal, and then, as I've said, some trial-and-error, and you'd have to connect the tail to whichever one works. Also, it might not work or exist at all. What if humans never had tails? Even if they did, it would be reviving something that's been long dormant in humans and could have very adverse effects, possibly both physical and psychological, and some threat of atavism could occur.

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You use all your brain. >.>

You can replace things but I'm not sure you can add new limbs. The brain can learn all sorts of new things but it'll be extremely tricky to try and connect totally new nerves. When you put an artificial hand you don't just plug stuff into the brain but you connect to nerves that are already there, I don't think they even use your hand nerves but have to take them from other muscles.

And you can't make a tail yet but people are starting to grow tissues and organs. If I remember they've grown a living lung artificially and I think someone was getting an eye to grow as well.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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The ability of the brain to adapt to changes in signalling, neuroplasticity, is an important area of research, with a lot of interesting stuff going on. Probably long before figuring out how to attach a tail would be work for giving people limbs and senses they were born without and repairing related issues to brain damage, etc. While all the issues and questions wouldn't be solved before someone tries attaching such a tail, a lot of the difficulty questions would probably already have solid answers before hand from high priority work.

Also, the whole humans use only 10% of their brain thing is pretty much wrong.

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If they were smart enough to become a billionaire, they're probably smart enough to not attach science experiments to their ass.

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Not impossible, it happens every time you get a viral infection. It's just tricky and not really able to make any physical changes after you have developed.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Meanwhile, the U.S. is still working out the rules for human test subjects. At least the UK has its priorities straight.

(On the plus side, this might mean less hassle getting surveys by the IRB for Dr. Gerbasi and co.)

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Yeah, but the US doesn't care as much about biology/sociology. "Ooh, shiny new Apple product!"

(Yay, patriotism!)

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Some 20+% of industrial R&D and 50% of federal civilian R&D spending in the US is biomedical, with many fields of research in the US having more funding than that in all of Europe combined and the US in the top ten per GDP spending on various kinds of such research.

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Oh, noes, I made a joke about iPods, I must be uneducated! Let's all throw statistics at me!

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Oh no, someone responded with information to a post that could be interpreted as either snide commentary on the topic or random humour, assuming it is easy to disregard in the latter case. Let's down vote an informational post.

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The majority of my comments can be disregarded, honestly. I rarely have anything of value to contribute.

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There was a Russian scientist during the USSR era named Ivanov, whom attempted to create an Ape Man by giving human sperm to an ape embryo. Those experiments failed, but before he was able to try the reverse with human embryo and ape sperm he and many other scientists were exiled by Stalin. This leads to thinking that its not entirely impossible or even improbable for someone to decide that this should be created. If a successful hybrid was created of, for an example, cat and human DNA then there are only two ultimate possibilities for the future. If this hybrid is sentient and just as intelligent and capable as a human being then why would the world as a whole not accept it? Given the fear of the unknown humanity possesses, it is reasonable to assume we would never know this hybrid existed even if it was successful. It would be destroyed at worst or hidden at best, and even if the world as a whole was made aware of it I doubt many of us would accept it. At first. The furry community seems to be making leaps and bounds in terms of acceptance. The rest of the world is still a bit lacking in acceptance on the matter and gravely outweigh those who would see the hybrid as the future.

Also, on the point of tail grafts, humans are born naturally with a tail. What do you think a 'tail bone' is? We simply do not grow anything to connect to it, but the connectors are there naturally. We aren't -that- removed from our tailed primate cousins. Attaching a tail to our bodies would be a simple process that, while not exactly written in stone, would be easy to accomplish for most people. What would be more interesting to see is if they could give humankind animal ears, or other such features. The process of altering a body is already in use, and modern DNA splicing is quite advanced. Splicing features such as tails or ears might not be so hard to imagine. It is certainly more acceptably possible than a hybrid species. At least for now, mind.

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GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a developer, editor and Kai Norn from London, United Kingdom, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.