The Academy of Medical Sciences (of which I am a Fellow) is a college of academic physicians and medical scientists who, among other things, produce reports on contentious matters of policy concerning medically related issues. Currently they are being asked to look at mixtures of humans and animals. The report had its genesis in the suggestion last year that human embryonic ells could be constructed without going to aborted fetuses, by putting human DNA (instead of bovine DNA) into a fertilized bovine egg, The only genetic Material from the cow would be the mitochondrial DNA from the cytoplasm of the cows egg. All the genetic products would human.
This proposal as met by a chorus of protests about Frankenstein's monsters. Shortly afterwards a picture appeared in a paper of a human ear grafted on to the back of a mouse, which seemed to confirm people's worst fears.
The Academy intends to take a serious look at such procedures to see what should and should not be permissible.
For a start we already accept the use of heart valves from a pig being used to replace diseased valves in the human heart. and we seem happy to use a baboon's liver to process human blood in patients with liver failure. When we make monoclonal antibodies we have to fuse a human lymphocyte with a mouse cancer cell. And in order to test medicinal products we construct laboratory mice so that they possess certain human genes. None of this has raised a public outcry - perhaps because the public don't know about it. One suggestion has been that regulations must stop human neural material must not be placed inside an animal. Other have suggested that it would be wrong to produce human eggs or sperm in this way. I would very much like to know what my readers think.