Friday, August 5, 2011

The Science Behind The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes 2

We continue with the amazing future of animals with human material (ACHM).

We continue quoting from a report released in the UK in July 2011 concerning the ethical, technical and regulative legislation concerning animals with human material.

Among the kinds of experiments that the report states "should be permissible, subject to additional specialist scrutiny by the national expert body" are:
Experiments that could be expected to significantly alter the appearance or behavior of animals, affecting those characteristics that are perceived to contribute most to distinguishing our species from our close evolutionary relatives.
It should be noted that the writers of this report, do not say that the third category of experiments should never be performed.  The phrase is "should not, for now" be licensed.  They say this because at the present time there is a"lack of compelling scientific justification..."  They recommend that this list of experiments be kept "under regular review."  But in a footnote they realize that,
...whether or not an admixed embryo is predominantly 'human' is an expert judgment, including an assessment of likely phenotype, but neither the precise eventual composition of an individual embryo nor the phenotypic effect of the admixture will be easily predictable in the current state of knowledge. [italics are ours]
I don't have a problem with it until it gets to the brain...but bits to do with memories, that would be too far - it's a human thing to have a memory.
anonymous scientist
ACHM Report July 2011
In chapter 2 of the report there is a discussion of the different types of ACHM.  There are three basic types of animals containing human material.

Genetically altered fish - GloFish
these lifeforms are patented
and 'owned by the company

  1. Genetically Altered Animals - these are animals whose DNA sequence has been altered in one of two ways: a section of human DNA sequence can be inserted into the genome of an animal cell.  This type of animal is called "transgenic."  The other way in which animal DNA can be altered is where the genome of the animal can be modified so as to have the same DNA sequence as that found in a human, or where specific DNA sequences are deleted to mimic aspects of the human genome.
  2. Chimeras - A chimera is defined by them as the "mixing together whole cells originating from different organisms."  So this new organism is made from a "patchwork" of cells from the two different sources.  According to the report the "mixture of cells in tissues of a chimera is not transmitted to future generations."  But there are two types of chimeras.  The first type is the primary chimera.  This kind of chimera is formed by "mixing together two early embryos."  Thus resulting in a chimera having "cells of different origins, in many tissues."  The second type of chimera is the secondary chimera.  These are formed by "transplanting (or grafting) cells or tissues into animals at later stages of development, including late fetal stages, post-natal or even adult animals."
  3. Hybrids - these are animals that are formed "by the fertilization of an egg or one species by the sperm of a different species." The report goes on to say that they are not aware "of the production of viable offspring between animal species, other than those that are very closely related..."
An example of research being done already with chimeras is mice which have 95% human liver.  These mice are invaluable in research into hepatitis B and C since these viruses usually only affect humans and chimpanzees.  They have also been used to test antiviral drugs in 2010.  Rats engrafted witbh stem cells have been used to study the potential for repairing damage to the brain by a stroke.  In these cases, the brain of the rat is only 0.001% human.

We include a short video concerning this project and whether Great Britain will lead the United States in this research.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://youtu.be/sdd8i1j_7RM.

    An interesting statement was made in regards to a proposed experiment suggested by Dr. Irving Weissman from Stanford University that has become known as the "human neuron mouse."  The report describes the experiment:
    ...would involve a far greater degree of substitution of the mouse brain with human-derived cells. The proposal was to use mice with a condition causing death several days before birth owing to the loss of most or all of the developing neurons in the fetal mouse brain. Weissman suggested transplanting human brain stem cells into the fetal mice, just as their own neurons were dying, with the intention of producing a mouse with a functional brain made up of mouse glial (supporting) cells and human neurons, to enable the study of human neurons in vivo.
    Would this create a mouse with a truly human brain?  The answer is probably not:
    If these cells do make effective connections then the signals that pass through them will be the signals of the host. Thus human nerve cells within a mouse would receive signals from the mouse‘s sensory organs (e.g. auditory signals about high frequency sound, vision adapted to dim illumination but not colour, touch from whiskers and olfactory input from the mouse‘s sensory world). Conversely, these cells would link to cells controlling the movement of four legs, and not to human hands or facial movement (speech).
    But what if this same kind of experiment were tried on a larger animal even another primate?  This changes the situation.  The report states that, "the potential consequences of a similar experiment conducted in a larger animal, for example a sheep or pig are more debatable; even more so in a NHP (non human primate), which has sensory and motor capabilities more similar to human."

    The report outlines the six main differences between humans and great apes from all other species:

    1. Episodic Memory - called by some "autobiographical memory" or memory of events.  It is basically they ability to recall the what, where and when of something.  Some say that self-awareness is distinctly human.
    2. Planning - the planning for for future needs, which apes and chimpanzees have to a lesser degree.
    3. Numerosity - the ability to work with numbers greater than 5.  The report states that monkeys of all types can only work with small numbers.  This is questionable since it has been demonstrated that a parrot can work with numbers as large as 6.
    4. Language - this area is controversial since it is recently being discovered that dolphins as well as other animals have sophisticated languages.
    5. Theory of Mind - this is the ability to identify and attribute mental states, e.g. beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge of yourself and others, and the capacity to recognize that the mental states of others can differ from your own.  This point is also considered controversial as to whether animals already have it or not.
    6. Social Cognition - this is described as the willingness to accept injustice and social inequality in humans.  Chimpanzees in studies have been found to lack a sense of fairness described by experiments performed by Quallo and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, titled, Gray and white matter changes associated with tool-use learning in macaque monkeys.
    In our next installment in this series we shall discuss "human-like appearances in animals by design.

    1 comment:

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