Viewpoint: ‘We can’t trust the biotechnology industry to act responsibly’ — Why mixing human and primate cells for research purposes needs strict government oversight

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Credit: Mohd Khomaini Mohd Sidik
Credit: Mohd Khomaini Mohd Sidik

Researchers from the United States and China announced in April that they had created the first ever human–primate chimeras. Mixing human stem cells with macaque monkey embryos, the scientists produced creatures with cells from both species.

The creation of such beings is deeply troubling, and raises questions about why it was done and where it might lead.

We may be inclined to trust that the biotech industry will regulate itself — that it will set and follow ethical standards that respect human life, or at least try in good faith to take account of public concerns. That has been the approach in the past. But today, we know enough about the industry’s track record that we should no longer expect it to police itself.

Related article:  Would 'designer babies' herald a new era of eugenics?

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[W]e have witnessed much frivolity of conscience from those charged with the responsibility of thinking through and governing our growing power over nature — from surrogacy to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to embryo research to cloning, and now human–primate chimeras.

The scientific community and its bioethical enablers now offer the same kind of rationalization that they have engaged in for decades: brushing aside the inconvenient or controversial human beings they create by killing them before anyone can notice.

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