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More Thoughts on Humanized Animals

A German ethics council weighs in on the discussion about the use of human-animal chimeras in research.

By | September 27, 2011

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The German National Ethics Council says that mice carrying human genetic material can be ethically used in biomedical research, but scientists must get permission from a national ethics panel, ScienceInsider reports. The report further outlines certain practices that should not be allowed, including the experiments that mix animal material into the human germline or vice versa. One issue that remains unresolved, however, is the creation of cybrids, formed by the insertion of a human cell nucleus into an animal egg, which the panel concluded is different than both human cloning and research that harms human embryos—both of which are forbidden by German law.

The recommendations echo the views of a recent working group organized by the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences, which similarly argued that such "humanized" animals are important tools for the scientific community, but such research must be undertaken with caution to avoid overstepping ethical boundaries. While the UK group based its conclusions on the perception of the British public about what is ethical, the German report discusses the philosophical considerations underlying the issue.

As with the UK report, the German panel hopes to generate discussion about the topic to further clarify and define the ethical lines. "We want to make it clear that not everything is as troubling or ethically problematic as it might seem at first glance," council member Jochen Taupitz, a bioethicist at the University of Mannheim, said at a press conference.

 

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