Human-Rabbit Clones?

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Chinese researchers have apparently succeeded in using rabbit eggs to jumpstart the process of creating largely human embryonic stem cells. Essentialy, what the Chinese scientists did was remove the nuclei from rabbit eggs and replace them with nuclei taken from human skin cells. Apparently, they had an amazing success rate–1 in 4 of the cloned cells actually survived to the blastocyst stage from which embryonic stem cells could be derived. The hope is that such experiments will teach researchers how to reset cells so that they can produce stem cells that can be used to treat degenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease or replace cardiac cells damaged by a heart attack.

Naturally, no biomedical breakthrough today goes without ethical maunderings-on, so the ever-predictable Richard Doerflinger, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opined that the cloned cells are human enough that "we'd consider this an organism of the human species." Relax, Father Doerflinger, researchers are not trying to produce people with big floppy ears who can wiggle their noses, just better medical treatments.

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  1. I’ve spliced my genes with jellyfish genes to make my cells glow in the dark (in a test tube, mind you), and it’s hilarious as hell… damn moralists ruining all the fun.

  2. Back in the early 80s they were teaching me in bio class that this had been done with mice and human dna for years in the US and England.

    The only thing was there were laws in both countries agaist allowing the fertilized cell to divide more than 2 times (US) or four time(UK).

    Gotta love those Chinese with their “Party On, Beavis” attitude!

  3. couldn’t they just use the technology to put rabbit ears on reagan? it’s not like he knows what the hell’s going on anyway… 🙂

  4. “Olestra’s a good example. The media tore their hair out and flogged themselves with nail-studded whips over it. But the whole thing died down, didn’t it. Not only died down, but sellin’ off the shelves.”

    Well, it’s certainly off the shelves at my grocery store. After I read it mentioned here on Reason that Olestra really wasn’t that bad, I decided to go test it out on myself. But I couldn’t find anything with Olestra in it so I gave up. I’ve mentioned to a few people that it might not be so bad, *everyone’s* initial response has been a gut-level reaction to “anal leakage”. I’m certain that if you went and did a series of word-association tests with Americans, and suggested Olestra, the immediate response of most testees would be “anal leakage”.

    Andy

  5. This is outstanding news. The entire issue of fetal stem cells has been a moral sword for both sides, effectively a proxy battle for the abortion debate. If we can use human skin cells to generate embryonic stem cells, and they show the same plasticity as fetal cells, this is major news indeed. I don’t think anyone but the most ideological can argue that creating stem cells from human skin is a sin. Color me hopeful.

  6. You’re way too hopeful. This technology will retain all the ethical problems of abortion-esque procedures and add to it the new horror of making half-human monsters!! People freak out when they learn about scientists putting fish genes in tomatoes… and you think they’ll be ok with *human* genes in rabbit cells?

    Andy

  7. dhex,

    Doing an “Island of Dr. Moreau” treatment on Reagan is the most bizarrely cool idea I’ve heard in a long time. “Uh, well [tilts head], not to go on all fours. Are we not men? I forget…”

    When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, did they lower the flag to three-quarters mast?

  8. I don’t know, this seems to have all the makings of a pretty harey situation.

  9. If the technology saves people like Chris Reeve or Ronald Reagan, yes, I think the great majority people will be just fine with it. “Sausage-making,” and all that.

    I also think the bulk of society is not as averse to fish-omatoes as those on the two boundaries might be, or as those in the shock-value media might try to make seem. No citations for you, sorry, but it’s my general feeling that if someone sells a tomato that lasts twice as long and tastes twice as good, most people will give it a chance. I think it’s bureaucrats who fear GMO, not average people.

    Olestra’s a good example. The media tore their hair out and flogged themselves with nail-studded whips over it. But the whole thing died down, didn’t it. Not only died down, but sellin’ off the shelves. I can’t believe a culture that injects themselves with silicone and botox is worried about GMO. I can’t believe a society that engages in elective surgery at the droop of a lid is worried about rabbit cells.

    Just me.

  10. they should do the same thing with humans and Cats but let embyros jestate

    Catgrils

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