NIH Proposes Taxpayer-Funded Research on Animal-Human Chimeras

On August 4, 2016 the NIH announced that it plans to lift its September 2015 moratorium on funding research that involves injecting human embryonic stem cells into animal embryos thus creating part-human and part-animal organisms known as chimeras. This means that, for the first time, the Federal government will begin spending taxpayer dollars on the creation and manipulation of new beings whose very existence blurs the line between humans and non-human animals.

This research is ethically problematic for several reasons:

 1) It relies on the killing of humans at the embryonic stage to harvest their stem cells.

 2) It involves the production of animals that could have partly or substantially human brains.

 3) It involves the production of animals that could have human sperm or eggs (with a stipulation that precautions are taken so such animals are not allowed to breed).

4) It allows the introduction of human embryonic stem cells into animal embryos early in their development such that it may be very difficult to know the extent to which human cells contribute to the final organism. 

Consequently, researchers won’t know what their moral obligations may be toward that being. Despite holding a workshop in November 2015, the NIH has apparently given little, if any, consideration to these or any other ethical concerns with regard to this research.

Action Alert: HLA had issued an Action Alert urging public comment on the proposed NIH chimera regulations. The comment period ended on September 6.

Other Resources:

For the official comments submitted by the USCCB General Counsel urging NIH not to fund unethical human/animal chimera research see:

See “NIH Wants to Fund Human-Animal Chimera Research,” Life Issues Forum, (8/26/2016) by Greg Schleppenbach, Associate Director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, USCCB.