In the past few decades, we have seen a great many movies about genetic experiments gone wrong. We have the Hulk which was a result of splicing jellyfish and starfish DNA with that of a human and then said human getting blasted with nanotechnology. He has suddenly become an indestructible, constantly growing, radioactive powerhouse. He can regenerate like a starfish and he glows green like a jellyfish. We then have Splice, a horror movie where 2 scientists create a bird, horse, fish, kangaroo, salamander, stingray, plant, and human hybrid which is born a disfigured, almost super powered mutant and later goes psycho and kills everyone. This due to an inevitable and irreversible change in DNA.
courtesy of thuglifevideos.com
But splicing DNA is just science fiction, isn’t it?
Xenotransplantation can most easily be defined as the transplantation of living cells, tissues or organs from one species to another.
This is still just a topic for clinical laboratory trials. When you think about it, how ethically sound is it to rewrite the DNA of one creature with that of another?
As mentioned, geneticists are still doing clinical trials to see how possible it would be to grow cross species organs in order to solve many of the medical issues that plague us. Amongst these are diabetes and even cancer.
Geneticists at Stanford University are involved in an ongoing study where they genetically engineer rats to grow mouse pancreases and mice to grow rat pancreases. It worked. The mice were taken and they were also genetically modified to have diabetes. With the rat pancreases, they were able to fight against the disease with only yearly treatment, versus the expected matter of days only.
It all begins at the genetic level. When the rodents were still in the embryonic stage, they were taken and given injections which changed them minutely but dramatically.
Most recently though, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies located in San Diego California has done another experiment which hits a lot closer to home. A group of scientists took a pig’s blastocyst and injected human DNA therein. This resulted in the very first human-pig hybrid embryo.
courtesy of National Geographic
The hope is to, as mentioned, create hearts, lungs, kidneys and other organs within pigs for humans to be able to adopt into their own bodies and to use like their own. There are many on both sides of the argument. PETA of course says that “Finding organs for people in desperate need of them is a laudable goal, and we can – and should – do this by encouraging more people to register to be organ donors, not by pouring research money into monstrous Frankenscience,”
Frankensience indeed. There is a sense of sanctity when it comes to the fine line between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom. The risks are astronomical when splicing is done between us and other creatures. Sean Davis voiced concern by mentioning what if pigs developed human ability to speak and to comprehend speech? How would that change life as we know it?
Sure, they have a noble cause, but I believe that there does come a time when we shouldn’t focus so much on whether we could, but whether we should.
Featured image courtesy of lifescience.com