Shortage of organs for transplantation – is more research on human–animal chimeras the right approach?

Dr Silvia Camporesi and Giulia Cavaliere wrote a commentary on Insoo Hyun’s PLOS Biology perspective piece that human/ animal chimera research to create humanised animal models for organ transplant should go ahead.

You can read an excerpt of their commentary below:

It is time to discuss, once again, the lifting of a moratorium on research. We are not talking about the CRISPR genome-editing moratorium, but about the 20 August announcement by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lift the moratorium on research involving chimeric human/non-human embryos (see BioNews 863). The use of federal funds for this kind of research had been previously banned by the NIH in September 2015.

Although it does not state it explicitly, the NIH announcement seems to have been triggered by Harvard professor George Church‘s research on growing humanised organ models in non-human animals, namely pigs.

Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, followed with a perspective piece in PLOS Biology, stating that the benefits of this kind of research are so great that we should no longer hesitate to fund it. He addresses traditional concerns in animal ethics, such as safety, the moral status of the non-human animal (in this case, the human/non-human chimera) and the exploitation of non-human animals in research.

We agree with his precautionary stance, which is consistent with the existing ethical standards for chimera research developed by xeno1the International Society for Stem Cell Research in 2007 and which has more emphasis on animal welfare than on speculative concerns about moral humanisation of the human/non-human animal chimera.

Hyun’s conclusions that ‘most, if not all, of these [traditional] concerns can be reasonably addressed’ are plausible. However, Hyun fails to address the elephant in the room: why should we invest significant resources in the creation of humanised animal models in the first place?”

 

You can read the full piece here:

http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_699184.asp

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