Wednesday, February 01, 2006

More on human-animal hybrids
After making the same sarcastic point I did (only funnier than me), PZ Myers explains what's really at stake with the "human-animal hybrids" reference in Bush's SOTU speech last night. It's not a reference to mad scientists, it's a callous suggestion that we ban a line of research that is already helping people.
We would love to have an animal model of Down syndrome, so that, for example, we could figure out exactly what gene overdose is causing the immune system problems or the heart defects, and develop better treatments for them.

So what scientists have been doing is inserting human genes into mice, to produce similar genetic overdoses in their development. As I reported before, there have been partial insertions, but now a team of researchers has inserted a complete human chromosome 21 into mouse embryonic stem cells, and from those generated a line of aneuploid mice that have many of the symptoms of Down syndrome, including the heart defects. They also have problems in spatial learning and memory that have been traced back to defects in long-term potentiation in the central nervous system.

These mice are a tool to help us understand a debilitating human problem.

George W. Bush would like to make them illegal.

The whole sentence, with it's multiple references to embryos was a bone to the pro-life religious right crowd.
Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research, human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos.

Prohibiting "human cloning in all its forms" would shut down research on things like growing skin for burn victims as well as several types of non-embryonic stem-cell research. Banning the buying or selling of human embryos should also close down a number of fertility treatments (or at least the ability of clinics to make a profit).

The religious right fears almost everything that deals with human genetics. It comes too close to defying the will of God and it stinks of evolution. They suspect that treating Grandma's Parkinson's will be the beginning of a slippery slope descent into breeding soulless super-soldiers and growing babies in order to harvest their parts. It makes them queasy. If they condemn millions of others to painful lives and early deaths in order to avoid that queasyness, they're will to sacrifice those others.

No comments: