Opinion

Chimera experiment raises benefits, concerns for stem cell research

Alvaro Baez // Contributing Cartoonist

In a recent scientific breakthrough, U.S. researchers have managed to create chimeric human-pig hybrids using human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The research team published its work in Cell journal, describing how the team inserted human stem cells into early-stage pig embryos and implanted the embryos in surrogate sows to develop.

Scientists were astonished to find that they had generated human cells in the embryos. Scientists involved in the chimera experiment believe that further research can lead to lab-grown human organs – a potential boon to patients awaiting organ transplants.

However, because of ethical concerns, the embryos were terminated after 28 days.

Stem cell research has long been a controversial subject in U.S. politics. Despite the existence of stringent guidelines, many politicians have openly opposed the use of stem cells taken from human embryos, which can divide indefinitely and are pluripotent, meaning they have the potential to divide into many different types of cells. This includes growth in critical organs like the heart or the liver.

Just as a government operates on a system of checks and balances, the scientific community is kept under scrutiny by ethical norms that are largely influenced by an ever-changing political agenda. As a result of the embryonic stem cell controversy, scientists have turned to amniotic fluid and iPSCs, a form of adult stem cell that has been reprogrammed to become pluripotent, circumventing the need for embryos.

iPSCs were used extensively in the chimera experiment, and yet, despite all the potential good that further research can bring, the ethical concerns surrounding the chimera experiment still stand. We now know that iPSCs can be used to grow human tissue in a non-human organism, which to some people may sound like something straight out of a creepy science-fiction movie. Just the mere thought of hybrid human-pig hybrids developing more human brains is enough to make someone cringe or panic (Animal Farm, anyone?).

That is why any future experiments must be carefully thought out and well-regulated. The National Institutes of Health is planning to lift a moratorium on human chimera research, which could allow increased federal funding for these types of experiments. Any benevolent scientist who dreams of benefiting mankind must first have the support of mankind. For the chimera research team, this means minimizing public concern while respecting ethical boundaries.

While the scientific community is far from achieving its end goals with these chimera experiments, it must proceed with great care, diligence and caution. Pluripotent stem cell research could very well hold the key to lab-grown organs or a cure for cancer, but scientists must tread lightly as they wander into uncharted territory.

Israel Aragon is a sophomore majoring in psychology.

 

February 8, 2017

Reporters

Israel Aragon Bravo


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It appears that at least one LSU receiver won’t be available at the University of Miami football ope ...

After the Miami Hurricanes football team spent part of its practice on Monday in a torrential downpo ...

Nothing like a comic book cover on steroids to get University of Miami and LSU football fans juiced ...

They are two big bodies with experience, but new to the University of Miami. And the Miami Hurricane ...

Freshman quarterback Jarren Williams, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing most of Tuesd ...

Intergroup Dialogue, soon to be offered as a course, fosters a sense of belonging, an appreciation f ...

Aretha Franklin and her music defined “what is soul” to generations of music lovers. ...

The University of Miami kicked into high gear to welcome thousands of new students and ensure move-i ...

UM President Julio Frenk welcomes first-year and transfer students to UM in signature ’Cane Kickoff ...

Miami Law conducts its inaugural Legal Impact Hack for first-year students. ...

The University of Miami volleyball team won its exhibition match over FIU, 3-0, Saturday at the Knig ...

Coming off a road win in its season opener, the University of Miami soccer team will welcome crossto ...

In head coach Sarah Barnes' debut at the helm, the University of Miami soccer team won its seas ...

The Hurricanes practiced in the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility for the first time ever on Fri ...

Malik Rosier, Travis Homer and Ahmmon Richards are key returning playmakers, but they are just the b ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.