Paul From Minneapolis

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Science? Hello? Could You Hold On a Second?

Scientists at the University of Nevada-Reno are involved in some amazing things these days:

“On a farm about six miles outside this gambling town, Jason Chamberlain looks over a flock of about 50 smelly sheep, many of them possessing partially human livers, hearts, brains and other organs…"It's mice on a large scale," Chamberlain says with a shrug.

“As strange as his work may sound, it falls firmly within the new ethics guidelines the influential National Academies issued this past week for stem cell research.

“In fact, the Academies' report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people.”

Are there drawbacks?

“What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?”

Could we get Don Knotts to star?

“The ‘idea that human neuronal cells might participate in 'higher order' brain functions in a nonhuman animal, however unlikely that may be, raises concerns that need to be considered,’ the Academies report warned.”

Thank you. I’ll assume someone is on that job, considering that concern. In the meantime, there’s this detail. Several years ago, in an attempt to make a point(or failing that, a billion dollars) anti-biotech activists Jeremy Rifkin and Stuart Newman “applied for a patent for what they called a humanzee, a hypothetical -- but very possible -- creation that was half human and chimp.”

Amid the din from Daily Kos types shrieking and hurling their dung and making their President McChimpy jokes, I’ll just take note of the fact that half-human, half-chimps are now “very possible.” Far beyond plausible; easy. A snap.

Okay, good. What will we do with these humanzees? Personally, I can’t think of a use for mine, but you know how the hi-tech economy works. We’ll all have one anyway!