March 26, 2007
85% Is Still Sheep!
Similar to the tagline Albert Pyun’s movie, Nemisis (~86.5% is still human~), apparently we’re now saying similar things about sheep. But at least we’re not talking sheep cyborgs here. Instead, as reported in The Mail, we’re witnessing the first human-sheep chimeras.
Scientists have created the world’s first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.
The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.
Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep’s fetus.
He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.
The idea for increasing the number of available transplants is an interesting one. It does give yet another dimension to our upcoming post-human future. One wonders what the market dynamics will do with this. Perhaps the hospital systems will use this as a nice money generator - “Well, a full human liver costs an extra 15K, but I have this genetically modified sheep liver for a song!” Truly, at first glance, this sounds like something out of Transmetropolitan. Apparently others have similar thoughts, given their worries:
But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.
Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: “Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV.”
Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep. But Prof Zanjani said: “Transplanting the cells into foetal sheep at this early stage does not result in fusion at all.”
Hmm, sheep fusion, ey? Gives a whole new slant to the whole sex with farm animals thing!