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Transgenics and Xenotransplantation

Information : Online Articles

trans and xenoAdvances in technology have made it possible for human and animal biological material to be mixed in a permanent way.  Xenotransplantation refers to the transplantation of animal tissues and organs into human recipients, either without or with genetic modification of the animal to minimise tissue rejection.  Transgenics refers to the mixing of human and animal genes.  For example, human genes can be introduced into sheep so that certain valuable human proteins will be expressed in the sheep’s milk.  Another variant of human/animal mixing has recently occurred in the context of stem cell research.  Researchers have introduced the human nuclear genome into enucleated eggs of cows, pigs and rabbits to produce a cloned human/animal hybrid, termed a cybrid.  There is no intention to implant any of the embryos for further development.  Human and animal cells can also be mixed in the early embryo to produce a chimera.

Important ethical questions arise about such mixing and some of the concerns centre on safety issues.  Will the introduction of animal tissues into humans lead to new viral outbreaks?  Other complex ethical questions surround the question of human dignity and whether it is an affront to human dignity for such intimate mixing of human and animal biological material to occur.  And whether there are issues with some techniques that do not apply to others?