More efforts targeting ‘human-animal hybrids’

MORE EFFORTS TARGETING ‘HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRIDS’…. Those right-wing policymakers in Arizona sure have been busy lately.

The Arizona state Senate on Thursday passed a bill making it illegal for a person to “intentionally or knowingly creating a human-animal hybrid.”

The bill, which passed 16 to 12, would prohibit anyone in the state from “creating or attempting to create an in vitro human embryo by any means other than fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm.”

This concept rose to national prominence in 2006, when then-President George W. Bush used his State of the Union address to urge Congress to pass legislation curbing what he considered “egregious abuses of medical research.” Among the threats in need of a legislative remedy? A ban on “creating human-animal hybrids.”

This has generated a fair amount of mockery, and for good reason, but there’s a serious angle to this. The kind of effort Arizona is now pushing may have serious consequences for medical researchers. Indeed, when far-right activists talk about banning “human-animal hybrids,” they’re often trying to make a sweeping ban on stem-cell research, which can involve mouse cells.

What’s more, research that may fall under the “human-animal hybrid” umbrella includes some potentially life-saving science. I spoke to a scientist last year who explained, “For example, it is currently unclear just how certain viruses spread in a person. Animal models are the preferred method of studying such things (for obvious reasons) but many pathogens are species restricted, meaning you cannot infect a mouse with them. By generating a mouse that carries genes to make what are effectively human cells (molecularly, and only a specific subset of cells, such as liver cells, or immune cells) these experiments can be done. Legislation banning such research has profound implications for our ability to stay competitive in the world in terms of basic research, not to mention in terms of medical developments.”

It’s not just Arizona — Louisiana passed a similar measure last year — and Republicans in Congress have touted the “Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act,” which will likely get a more significant push if there’s a GOP majority next year.