A chimera is a living organism made up of parts from different organisms. You have heard myths about a half-woman, half-fish mermaid, and a human torso and head on a horse’s body and legs. Those would be chimeras if they actually existed. Now scientists have created a human-macaque chimera.
Scientists at the Salk Institute in California injected human stem cells into macaque embryos. They allowed the embryos to grow for only 20 days before destroying them. The stated purpose for creating a human-macaque chimera is to find a way to grow human organs for transplant and to develop new drugs.
This reminds us of a science fiction story of chimeras turning into monsters that threaten human beings. The term “chimera” (kye-MER-uh) comes from an animal in Greek mythology with a lion’s head and body, a goat’s head protruding from its back, and a tail with the head of a snake. Imagine what a human-macaque chimera might be like.
This experiment raises bioethical questions. Just because researchers can do this, should they do it, and what kind of research should they carry on? Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist involved in this research, says that chimeras have “the potential to radically humanize the biology of laboratory animals.”
The morals and beliefs of the scientists doing the research become a significant issue in situations like this. We need people with Christian values involved in making these decisions to ensure that everything is done to relieve human pain and suffering, not to create half-human creatures. God has provided the blueprint in DNA, but it is up to humans to decide how to use it. Whether it is for good or evil is an old biblical question.
— John N. Clayton © 2021