Efforts Targeting ‘Human-Animal Hybrids,’ Cont’d

EFFORTS TARGETING ‘HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRIDS,’ CONT’D…. The concept first 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.” Specifically, Bush sought a ban on “creating human-animal hybrids.”

The issue has been embraced by conservative lawmakers, especially in state legislatures. Louisiana passed a measure last year, and Arizona’ state Senate approved a similar proposal just last month. Now, a bill is advancing in Ohio, and Jason Linkins reports that the efforts succeeded thanks to the work of a state-based religious right group.

[A] bunch of Ohio legislators who went to see the movie Splice have gone and freaked right the heck out, and have passed their own law, banning human-animal hybridization.

This is a victory for something called the Ohio Christian Alliance:

“Ohio Christian Alliance President Chris Long made the following statement, “For the past seven years, OCA has been working tirelessly with members of the Ohio Legislature to ban embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and in recent years, animal-human hybrid. Science has advanced to the point where DNA from animals and humans can be intermixed in scientific laboratory experimentation. This is simply outrageous!”

Developments like these tend to generate a fair amount of mockery — it does sound kind of silly — but there’s a serious angle to this, with these state bills potentially undermining medical researchers in unexpected ways. 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.”

What’s more, it’s not limited to state-based action. Several congressional Republicans have pushed the “Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act,” and while it’s not going anywhere in this Congress, if the GOP gets a majority next year, it’s a safe bet this will get some attention.