Playing God

Almost three years ago I wrote an article, “On human-whatever-species-else hybrids” and in it I posed a question that states, “Can the evince of both species features be manipulated?”. A year later, I wrote another article on a similar topic, “On human-avian hybrids“. In it I managed to cite the “latest” on research on human-animal hybrids.

nucleus of a cow eggThe two articles somehow contradicted each other as one cites the creation of a 32-celled human-bovine embryo while the other one cites a quote that leans to the impossibility of combination. Today, almost two years later, the top search result on Google on this topic is an article from two years ago. The article is not even about a group which aims to create recombinant species but for medicine – their goal is “the development of new therapies for debilitating human conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke”. Clearly, not much progress has been made in this area of science.

Then again, we can’t know about “top-secret” and “highly confidential” information using the surface of the web.

So, now the question goes down from whether it will be possible to control the evince of the species features to whether it will be possible to create a complete recombinant creature. As from before, there can be two sides to ask from.

First, the highly biblical people. Recombinant lifeforms are creatures which are never mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, if we ask some of them, as I have done, they will simply cite verses in the Bible that states something about creatures reproducing according to its kind. Also, they will cite about there only being one Creator and that Creator is not among humans. Therefore, it won’t be possible for recombinant creatures to have existed or to be created.

Second, the highly scientific people. From the 1960’s, when recombinant DNA technology first emerged, various research by numerous teams have been conducted that lead to the improvement of knowledge about DNA and its applications. It used to be that every attempt at recombination was a failure. But further research discovered significant components of the DNA that lead to the possibility of injecting foreign genes to an organism, either to add to its intrinsic value, to its aesthetic value, or, in a very straight-forward thought, to try to learn more about it and improve techniques.

As with combining different species, Leslie Pray of Nature Education in the article Recombinant DNA Technology and Transgenic Animals states,

The first actual recombinant animal cells weren’t developed until about a decade after the research conducted by Berg’s team, and most of the early studies involved mouse cells. In 1981, for example, Franklin Costantini and Elizabeth Lacy of the University of Oxford introduced rabbit DNA fragments containing the adult beta globin gene into murine (mouse) germ-line cells. (The beta globins are a family of polypeptides that serve as the subunits of hemoglobin molecules.) Another group of scientists had demonstrated that foreign genes could be successfully integrated into murine somatic cells, but this was the first demonstration of their integration into germ cells. In other words, Costantini and Lacy were the first to engineer an entire recombinant animal (albeit with relatively low efficiency).

Since these early studies, scientists have used recombinant DNA technologies to create many different types of recombinant animals, both for scientific study and for the profitable manufacturing of human proteins. For instance, mice, goats, and cows have all been engineered to create medically valuable proteins in their milk; moreover, hormones that were once isolated only in small amounts from human cadavers can now be mass-produced by genetically engineered cells. In fact, the entire biotechnology industry is based upon the ability to add new genes to cells, plants, and animals. As scientists discover important new proteins and genes, these technologies will continue to form the foundation of future generations of discoveries and medical advances.

However, as is always the case with new technology, various questions, ranging from the purely scientific to the ethical and moral, arise to challenge such knowledge. And, to quote from the same article above,

Interestingly, not long after the publication of his team’s 1972 study, Paul Berg led a voluntary moratorium in the scientific community against certain types of recombinant DNA research. Clearly, scientists have always been aware that the ability to manipulate the genome and mix and match genes from different organisms, even different species, raises immediate and serious questions about the potential hazards and risks of doing so — implications still being debated today.

Yes, they talk of “mice, goats, and cows” but, apparently, I was wrong and, in the world of science, more specifically, in biotechnology, it may not be long before we could see people and institutions such as the ones described in James Patterson’s Maximum Ride. The question is, are we willing to take the risks that inevitably come with playing the role of the creator?

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One thought on “Playing God

  1. Pingback: Wrecking Ball | Pandora's Box

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