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Jewish World Review
Sept. 7, 2007
/ 24 Elul 5767
Halloween is just around the corner, so in keeping with the spirit of mad scientists, monsters, ghouls, and horror, this story fits right in. It was reported by The Guardian, a British newspaper, on September 4th and if this one doesn't give you nightmares, then nothing will. The headline in the paper read: HUMAN-ANIMAL EMBRYO STUDY WINS APPROVAL
British scientists will now be allowed to mix human cells and animal eggs for research into new medical treatments. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority of England has published its long-awaited public consultation on the controversial research. And the results? A majority of people were "at ease" with scientists creating the hybrid embryos. More than 60% thought that the creation of human-animal embryos was fine.
Now before I start my rant on mad scientists creating monsters in their laboratories, in all fairness, let me give you the "official" skinny on this thing. Here is what they say. "Researchers want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs, in the hope they will be able to extract valuable embryonic stem cells from them. The cells form the basic building blocks of the body and are expected to pave the way for revolutionary therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even spinal cord injuries."
Sounds noble, doesn't it? I mean, it's scientists just looking for cures to help mankind, right? Why would anyone object to that? Gee, I don't know - why would anyone object to Dr. Frankenstein conducting experiments on the secrets of life and death? After all, remember what Doctor Henry Frankenstein said in the movie:
Victor Moritz: You're crazy!
Henry Frankenstein: Crazy, am I? We'll see whether I'm crazy or not.
The article goes on to say that using animal eggs will allow researchers to push ahead unhindered by the shortage of human eggs. Under existing laws, the embryos must be destroyed after 14 days when they are no bigger than a pinhead, and cannot be implanted into the womb. Opponents of the research and some religious groups say the work blurs the distinction between humans and animals, and creates embryos that are destined to be destroyed when stem cells are extracted from them.
Henry Frankenstein: Look! It's moving. It's alive. It's alive... It's alive, it's moving, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!
In the movie Doctor Frankenstein is warned that his experiments with life and death could prove dangerous.
Henry Frankenstein: Dangerous? Have you never wanted to do anything that was dangerous? Where should we be if no one tried to find out what lies beyond? Have you never wanted to look beyond the clouds and the stars, or to know what causes the trees to bud? And what changes the darkness into light? But if you talk like that, people call you crazy. Well, if I could discover just one of these things, what eternity is, for example, I wouldn't care if they did think I was crazy.
Two research groups based at King's College London and Newcastle University have already applied to the HFEA to create animal-human embryos, but their applications have been on hold since November last year amid confusion over whether the authority was legally able to issue licenses. If the authority approves the research, the applications will go forward to a committee, with a decision on both due within three months.
Professor Ian Wilmut, whose team cloned Dolly the sheep, is waiting for the HFEA's decision before applying to create hybrid embryos to study motor neurone disease with Professor Chris Shaw at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.
Doctor Waldman: You have created a monster, and it will destroy you!
Another movie that comes to mind is "The Fly." Remember that one? A scientist builds a matter transporter machine but things go terribly wrong and the cells of a human and a fly are combined, resulting in the creation of a half human, half fly creature. These Brisish experiments might go that film one better. We might be seeing half human and half rat creatures. Or maybe half human and half rabbit. Actually anything might be possible. But back to Frankenstein.
Victor Moritz: Henry - In the name of G-d!
Henry Frankenstein: Oh, in the name of G-d! Now I know what it feels like to be G-d!
That was the 1931 movie Frankenstein. The big difference is, we're not talking about a movie anymore, this is real life! Happy early Halloween!
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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