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Ban These Sick Ape-Man Frankensteins

According to a new report, urgent action is required to stop scientists creating a monstrous race of apes with fully functional human brains (just as Christine O'Donnell warned us about those mice), thus causing Planet Of The Apes to come true.

OK, that's not quite what the Academy of Medical Sciences said. But judging from most of the media coverage, you might think it was.

The report is actually about "Animals containing human material" and it notes that under British law, experiments of this kind are covered by generic animal research rules, but there are no special animal-human regulations.

Should there be?

I think there should be. We as a society allow experiments on animals or animal embryos that we don't allow on humans, even on human embyros. Clearly, we need to decide what we're going to do about organisms that have both human and animal DNA, or whatever. This doesn't mean restricting it - to clear up the rules could also facilitate such research, by making it explicit what is allowed.

However, we should tread carefully here. This is an area where our intuitions can lead us astray.

Although we have absolutely no idea how to make an animal-human "hybrid", or even whether it's possible at all, the very idea of it has many people worried. It's probably a case of the uncanny valley and lots of cultural baggage (Planet of the Apes et al).
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TAGGED: COMMENTARY, GENETICS, MEDIA


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