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Federal government lifts ban on research using ‘chimera’ animal-human hybrid embryos

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The National Institute of Health is lifting a previous moratorium banning scientists from creating animal embryos that have human organs or cells, National Public Radio reports.

But now scientists can get federal dollars to create “chimera” embryos — as long as they follow a carefully-crafted set of rules. A chimera is an organism that has DNA from one or more organisms. The name comes from Greek mythology — a winged fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head and goat’s body that served as a bad omen for looming disasters.

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Scientists hope to use human organs grown in animals like pigs, sheep and cows for transplants and use the embryos for medical research.

According to Science Magazine, the controversy started when Professor Juan Carlos Izpisúa 
Belmonte at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in San Diego, learned that he was a top-ranked applicant for the NIH’s Pioneer Award — which bestows $500,000 for five years of research. But late last year, he was told his application was on hold.

The NIH put research using chimera embryos on hold in September “while the Agency considers a possible policy revision in this area.”

“I’m not upset,” Belmonte told Science in October. “Quite the opposite. I think it is great that we openly discuss this and hope that a conclusion is reached.”

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At issue are the use of pluripotent cells — a powerful stem cell that can develop into any kind of cell in the body. While the medical promises seem obvious, scientists worried the cells could develop into brain or reproductive cells in animal-human offspring.

To prevent this science fiction horror movie scenario from coming to life, scientists have put stringent restrictions in place. For example, policy prohibits the introduction of human cells into non-human primate embryos, like monkeys and chimpanzees. Some experiments will go through an extra layer of government review before commencing. Or animals created with human sperm or egg cells could prove useful in understanding human development — but special steps would be taken to prevent such creatures from breeding.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure this research progresses because its very important to our understanding of disease. It’s important to our mission to improve human health,”Carrie Wolinetz, associate director for science policy for NIH said in an interview with NIH. “But we also want to make sure there’s an extra set of eyes on these projects because they do have this ethical set of concerns associated with them.”

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The new research horizons are not without vocal critics, who fear scientists are charting dangerous new territory.

“Science fiction writers might have imagined worlds like this — like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Brave New World, Frankenstein,” Stuart Newman, a biologist at New York Medical College, told NPR. “There have been speculations. But now they’re becoming more real. And I think that we just can’t say that since it’s possible then let’s do it.”

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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2020 Election

Mass rallies, crazy decisions, grandiose posturing: This is what living in a dictatorship feels like

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Another week of shaking our heads and wondering how much longer we can survive him. Yet again, Donald Trump overwhelmed practically everything with the force of his obscene personality, running his mouth and his thumbs even while he was failing to run the country in any sort of conventional sense. He doesn’t actually do anything, but he dominates everything. Living in America today is like being trapped in a room with him — no doors, no windows, no exits, only Trump and the sound of Trump and the hideous image of Trump, all day, every day, for day after day after day.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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Trump officials furious with NRA over ‘dick move’ leak of LaPierre phone call: report

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President Donald Trump originally appeared interested in strengthening federal background check laws in the wake of deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Then, after a phone conversation with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on Tuesday, Trump reportedly assured him that background checks were "off the table" and pivoted to discussing anything but guns.

It was a depressingly familiar moment for Trump, who also previously headfaked toward some minor gun control reforms after the Parkland school shooting and quickly walked them back.

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Former Dem Senator hilariously nails perfect impression of ‘pouting’ Trump at G7 because nobody ‘likes him’ there

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During the "Overtime" segment of HBO's Real Time, former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) made fun of Donald Trump before he arrived at the G7 summit in France,m saying he will pout his way through the weekend because the other world leaders loathe him.

With host Bill Maher asking how the Trump will conduct himself, Heitkamp immediately went into a very recognizable arms-crossed pout, which caused the audience to burst into laughter.

After the two posed as Trump and Geerman leader Angela Merkel from the last get together, Heitkamp had a few things to say about the president.

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