Alien Species... On the Threshold of a Brave New World.
Ethical Organ-Shortage Solutions
Safe, clean food and nutritional supplements with therapeutic strengths are among the most obvious solutions for preventing disease that leads to organ transplants in the first place. Heart disease alone claims over 600,000 American lives a year, yet only 5,000 heart transplants are performed worldwide. With 116,000 people on national waiting lists for transplant organs as of August 2017 and only 34,000 transplants performed in 2016, ill people and the market are poised for a solution. While we wait for the first successful organ 3D/4D bio-printing, medicine's next big frontier, (1) the controversial chimera appears a viable solution for those who have irresponsibly failed their own organs or their organs have genetically failed them or succumbed to environmental manipulations. Along with preventive lifestyles, the ethical solution, however, is 3D or 4D organ printing that is based not on aborted fetal cells but the body's own cells.
Traversing millennia, chimera (animal-human hybrids) now thrive in United States, UK, and other research labs growing tissue that may yield liver, kidney, heart, or other transplanted organs, eliminating the wait for a human donor and reducing the risk of organ rejection. Despite ocular, neurodegenerative, and other applications, fiery controversy surrounds chimera and rightfully so. Humans and animals have mixed throughout the ages in various ways. Beyond an initial repulsion, what makes a chimera, not the mythical Greek fire-breathing union of human and animal, but a living being composed of cells coalesced from two different organisms, either from the same or different species, so hotly debated? Foundations matter. Arguments begin with taking one life to provide another's; an entire emerging industry based upon aborted human fetuses is suspect particularly when Planned Parenthood staff reveal financial incentivization for meeting monthly corporate abortion quotas. (2) Dead babies are big business and an integral part of emerging tech where chimeras are concerned. But there are other concerns as well.
How it Works
Scientists research chimera in the form of humanized mice to study inflammatory disease, cancer, infectious disease, and hematopoiesis. For transplant hopefuls, the big news out of Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte's Salk Institute Lab was the creation of human-pig chimeras, (3) fetal pigs with human cells mixed in. Yet "even with complementation (where for example a pig chimera would ideally only have human cells contributing to one organ such as a kidney or pancreas), one of the ethical dilemmas is that the chimeras would have to be taken to term in order to get a usable human pancreas. It is unclear if taking a human-animal chimera to term could be ethically permissible." (3) Hopefully, bioethical issues will be decided by the time technical problems are solved, such as increasing the percentage of human cells in pigs by using the CRISPR gene technique. For a viable transplant, at least one percent of the embryo's cells must be human. Until then, organ growth is a long way off, so 3D/4D printing still stands a chance.
In 2012, in my book review of Michio Kaku's Physics of the Future, (4) I asked how the health-freedom community (which the National Health Federation began in 1955) would protect humans against runaway technology. Kaku cited radical futuristic changes, advancements in technology, robotics, and the amalgamation of species including Al-enhanced humans. I cited the need for a Bill of Rights for the Race of Mankind, fresh guidance, and intervention in a Brave New World, much the same as our founding fathers like Jefferson and Adams saw the need for a new set of standards and guidelines in the New World. In our day, we need not merely the recommendations or proposals that Ethics Committees provide, which may or may not be adhered to, but a global standard and commitment to respect and protect the sanctity of life. This is a war on humanity--on what it means to be human.
The Weaponization of Scientific Research.
Novel-lifeform creation management is comparable in magnitude to the need for international nuclear warfare restraint. Driving the international conversation is a need for China, North Korea, and Russia in particular to cooperate versus compete. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in 2017 that the control of artificial intelligence will be crucial to global power noting that it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position. The same can be said for the potential dangers of weaponized chimera. For instance, concerning Russia's dominance in cyber-warfare, one could easily imagine one of their bot groups taking control of an on-going chimera lab and wreaking unimaginable havoc. If new lifeforms with a strong resemblance to human beings, either emotionally or physically, begin to appear and even populate on Earth, life will be forever changed. We are fast sailing into uncharted territory without a safe harbor in sight.
Based on stem-cell biology and gene-editing technology, scientists alter DNA in sheep or pig embryos to circumvent tissue development in favor of the organ they wish to grow. When human stem cells are introduced into the animal, it is hoped that the human cells will assume formation of the missing organ, thus creating a human liver, kidney, heart, or other organ for harvest from the animal for use in a transplant operation. In late 2015, at the same time I was researching material for my first article on this subject (which published in 2016), (5) scientists had been gathering preliminary information, observing cell growth and cell fate, deducing how great the contribution of human cells is to the animals' bodies, and then presumably destroying research samples in 28 days. Scientific progress has since been rapid but fails to keep pace with ethical decision-making on a global level.
Chimera researchers and scientists began inserting human cells into early sheep and pig embryos in 2014. MIT Technology Review stated that 20 pregnancies of pig-human or sheep-human chimeras were established during 2016 in the U.S. alone. (6) Another three dozen pig transfers have taken place outside the US. Yet, biological humanization balances tenuously against the risk of moral humanization; the great fear being creation of a novel sentient being with human gualities.
Thinking Pigs and Standing Sheep
Stanford University stem-cell biologist Hiromitsu Nakauchi experiments with human-sheep chimeras. Offering a disturbing analysis of potential outcomes, Nakauchi noted current contributions by human cells to the animals' bodies appear to be relatively small. "If the extent of human cells is 0.5 percent, it's very unlikely to get thinking pigs or standing sheep," he says. "But if it's large, like 40 percent, then we'd have to do something about that." (6) (emphasis added) "Desperately ill people on organ waiting lists might someday order a chimera and wait less than a year for their own custom organ to be ready. I really don't see much risk to society," Nakauchi says.
Michio Kaku notes, "Since we are drowning in an ocean of information, the most precious commodity in modern society is wisdom." This is never truer than for health-freedom advocates today. We need an expanded definition of health freedom as prior delineations are obsolete in the face of novel life forms. Stephen Hawking admits further progress in science and technology will create "new ways things can go wrong": "We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognize the dangers and control them. I'm an optimist, and I believe we can." (7)
But there are scientific and social implications to be considered; namely the humanization of animals. Chimerism concerns encompass crossing inviolable species borders. (8) These are real concerns leading to real questions, particularly if brought to term: do we put this new creation in a zoo or allow it to live among us? Our days of being fully human and being fully animal are numbered, the distinction forever blurred and now compounded with Al/human amalgamation. Elon Musk notes, "Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in Al age." (9)
Progress must find its balance. Stem-cell research was held up during the last Bush Administration due to fears it would encourage increased abortion rates. Criticism abounds, primed by that action, that the "religious right," which now includes Muslims due to the use of pigs in chimera research, will delay progress. Yet science unchecked against the moorings of ethics, human dignity, and sanctity is unwise particularly in the face of the sheer magnitude of unknown variables versus known benefits.
Playing with the Fire-Breathing Chimera
There are some who argue against chimeras by claiming that humanity would lose its dignity. However, according to Ethics Committee publications, the "retaining human dignity" argument is flawed. The human is not diminished by an animal becoming more human. Additional ethical challenges concern human-cell contribution to chimeric brains and any human contribution to germ cells. Safety measures mandate sterilization at a minimum. The great unknown is animals starting to possess human characteristics and features. Others suggest that such characteristics as linguistic capacity, rationality, and a capacity for sufficiently social relationships are inherent only in human relationships. Animal sciences such as ethology, primatology, animal psychology, and behavioral ecology suggest otherwise. (10)
Pablo Ross, a veterinarian and developmental biologist at the University of California, Davis, advises, "We don't want to grow them to stages we don't need to, since that would be more controversial. ... My view is that the contribution of human cells is going to be minimal, maybe 3 percent, maybe 5 percent. But what if they contributed to 100 percent of the brain? What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It's something that we don't expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can't rule it out." (10) (emphasis added) Embryo complementation is a concern because the human cells can multiply, specialize, and potentially contribute at will to any part of the developing animal's body.
Wolfgang Enard of Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich in Germany, showed that mice are better at learning if they have the human Foxp2 gene, which has been linked with human language development. Yet he asks the wise cautionary question, "If you make animals more human-like, where do you stop?" In the "smart mouse" model, (11) researcher Steve Goldman cites, "Within a year, the mouse glial cells had been completely usurped by the human interlopers. The 300,000 human cells each mouse received multiplied until they numbered 12 million, displacingthe native cells. We could see the human cells taking over the whole space." Goldman continues, "It seemed like the mouse counterparts were fleeing to the margins." Otherwise said, the mice became measurably smarter. The team stopped short of putting human cells into monkeys and great apes due to ethical concerns.
A richer discourse is demanded surrounding the ethics of a novel-being creation. The 1997 book and its 2007 film adaptation The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (original French title: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) is a memoir by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby. After suffering a massive stroke that left him with "locked-in syndrome," he blinks his way through the alphabet with the help of a friend to write his experiences of being fully cognizant and unable to "get out." This is the great fear of the results of chimera research and is one reason why great apes have been excluded as candidates. How would we know? Helen Keller found a way out. Ethics demand a sufficient reason to pause.
Despite the fact that scientists from other countries such as Japan move to the US in order to conduct chimera research as it is allowed here (and in the UK with more stringent restrictions), the National Institutes of Health (NIH)--which controls the federal expenditures on medically-based research--wisely exercised caution, withdrawing funding until ethical and social considerations could be addressed even though NIH was hit with criticism for a fear-based decision, impeding progress. Hiromitsu Nakauchi himself admits, "What if the embryo that develops is mostly human? It's something that we don't expect, but no one has done this experiment, so we can't rule it out."
Ethics of Funding Chimera Research
Since the NIH denied funding, other funding sources including California's state stem-cell agency were sought and came through. The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a State agency instituted 10 years ago to bypass political interference from Washington, provided a $6 million grant for Nakauchi's work.
Government funding in and of itself is a major concern. But when the military gets involved we must ask "why"? Dr. Daniel Garry, a cardiologist heading a chimera project at the University of Minnesota was awarded a $1.4 million grant from the US Army to attempt growing human hearts in pigs. Dr. Garry was one of 11 who co-authored a letter in November 2015 criticizing the NIH for creating "a threat to progress" that "casts a shadow of negativity" on their work. Yet neither they, nor others, have weighed the ethics and come up with a universal agreement. Instead, the NIH might be commended for exercising wise caution until answers emerge regarding animals that could possess human consciousness and inadvertently be released into the wild or society.
The worry is that the animals might turn out to be a little too human for comfort, such as ending up with human reproductive cells, patches of people hair, or just higher intelligence. "We are not near the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast," NIH ethicist David Resnik said during the NIH's meeting. "The specter of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming 'I want to get out' would be very troubling to people." (6)
The last thing we need is to turn over this vital and crucial decision-making process to government, the pharmaceutical sector, the medical sector, or the Pope. Research must progress but within ethical bounds. We need an expanded definition of health freedom as prior delineations, which apply to human-only models and human-only post-embryonic stage, are obsolete in the face of novel life forms. The creation of an artificial embryo, (12) conceived without egg or sperm, raises more ethical implications. Will this novel life form the new foundation, bypassing aborted fetuses, to create a bank of donor cells to merge with animals to make chimera? Are they human, possessing a soul or useful only as organ-breeders? The questions fall into a seeming spiritual and intellectual vacuum as science marches on to slake the market's thirst for problem-solving innovation.
Old British Common Law and Emerging Biotechnology
Richard Maybury, in World War I, The Rest of the Story and How It Affects You Today, expounds on two legal principles making peace, liberty, and civilization possible. These two laws have been the basis of the old British Common Law and are inherent in all main religions. The first forms the basis of contract law: to do what you say you will. The second: to not encroach on humans or their property. The disregard of these laws undermines civilizations and starts wars.
Despite ethics committees disregard of the "human dignity" argument, the sanctity of life is sacrificed on the altar of scientific research and the creation of novel life forms wars against these basic foundational legal principles. There is too much risk in contract-law violations for simple trust that the chimera will indeed be destroyed in 28 days. In a theoretically lucrative and competitive climate or one fueled by the Deep State, the Military-Industrial Complex, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, Wall Street, greed, and basic human need for innovation, more reliable, firmly accountable boundaries need to be set with strict penalties for their disregard. This places a greater responsibility and agreement among nations regarding chimera development. The tenuous trust and shared vulnerability is too great to assume without firm boundaries should these two principles of law be violated; and if history serves, they will be.
We have crossed the threshold into yet another Brave New World populated by chimeras, cyborgs, artificial embryos, enhanced humans, and potential weaponized combinations of these. Technology sweeps over us like a tsunami and yet we are making judgments as we go along integrating new research, data, and applications with scarcely time to consider their long-term impact. Together, we must consider carefully in the creation of this New World and demand respect for health, health freedom, and the basic laws of civilization as new life forms challenge current models and boundaries. Critical thinking, of which I have written much in the past, must be applied here to prevent any disasters by government or business. Just as countries lose their unique flavor through mass immigration, so humans stand to lose their sanctity, sacredness, and distinctiveness through fusion for the sake of a science-driven market.
[c] 2016-2018 (updated) Katherine A. Carroll; originally published in an earlier version in Health Freedom News, quarterly publication of the National Health Federation and on the NHF website at https://www.thenhf.com/hfn-magazine/health-freedom-articles/alien-species-a-brave-new-world.
(1.) BIOUFE4D - Build a Heart, Save a Life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=211&v=yUY_S8SMAhY
(2.) Payton B. Whistleblowers: Planned Parenthood Had Dead Baby Quotas. The Federalist. February 8, 2017.
(3.) Knoepfler Stem Cell Lab. Perspectives on pig human chimera paper. The Niche. January 2017.
(4.) Carroll KA. Book Review: Physics of the Future, How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives By The Year 2100. https://www.thenhf.com/resources/blog/nhf-news/10book-review-by-katherine-a-carroll-ntp-physics-of-the-future-how-science-will-shape-human-destiny-and-our-daily-lives-by-the-year-2100-by-machio-kaku
(5.) Carroll KA. Alien Species; A Brave New World. Health Freedom News. Winter 2015;33(4).
(6.) Regalado A. Human-Animal Chimeras Are Gestating on U.S. Research Farms, A radical new approach to generating human organs is to grow them inside pigs or sheep," MIT Technology Review, January 6, 2016.
(7.) Shukman D. Hawking: Humans at risk of lethal 'own goal.' BBC News, Science and Environment, 19 January 2016.
(8.) ISSCR: Committee Forum. Ethical Standards for Human-to-Animal Chimera Experiments in Stem Cell Research. ISSCR Cell Press. http://www.isscr.org/docs/default-source/2015-am-stockholm/hyun-08-07.pdf?sfvrsn-2.
(9.) Kharpal A. Elon Musk: Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in Al age. CNBC.com. February 13, 2017.
(10.) Baylis F, Fenton A. Chimera research and stem cell therapies for human neurodegenerative disorders. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 2007;16:195-208.
(11.) Coghlan A. The smart mouse with the half-human brain. New Scientist. December 6, 2014.
(12.) Crew B. Scientists Have Grown the World's First Artificial Embryo, And It's Nuts. March 2017. www.sciencealert.com.
by Katherine A. Carroll, NTP
Executive Director, National Health Federation
Katherine A. Carroll is Executive Director of the National Health Federation and Foundation for Health Research and is Managing Editor of NHF's magazine, Health Freedom News. Katherine is on the Board of Directors of the National Health Federation Canada and the Advisory Board for GreenMedlnfo.
Katherine received the NHF 2014 Health Freedom Hero award for her food-activist work as an NHF delegate at Codex Alimentarius since 2012. Certified in Nutritional Therapy, she also writes for several magazines and blogs as frequent contributor to several publications. Additionally, Katherine enjoys hosting international guests at Adytum Sanctuary, their Western Washington Pacific Northwest Retreat.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Carroll, Katherine A.|
|Date:||May 1, 2018|
|Previous Article:||The Nature of Information and the Metaphysics of Science.|
|Next Article:||Consumer Reports Magazine Bias.|