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Stanford's Stem Cell Mouseketeer
March 14, 2005

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Science without limits has a nasty habit of hurling reality into the science fiction realm.

Researchers at Stanford University are getting ready to create a mouse with human brains. No joke ­ a real-life Stuart Little.

Stuart Little is the fictional mouse of film fame. The animated rodent had human parents and lived in a New York apartment.

Ironically, the voice of the movie critter was supplied by Michael J. Fox. Fox has been a spokesperson and an advocate for what has been called embryonic stem cell research, but which is actually cloning in disguise.

This same cloning technology is what Stanford scientists are going to use to conjure up something called a "chimera," a combo creature that is part human, part animal, named after the mythical Greek monster that was part lion, part goat and part serpent.

Just as H.G. Wells might have imagined, some of our nation's top brainiacs are going to attempt to fashion beings that are part man, part mouse.

Theoretically, if a chimera Mickey and Minnie happened to get intimate, it could lead to a human embryo being trapped inside a mouse's womb.

This hideous possibility has led William Cheshire, a neurology professor from the Mayo Clinic in Florida, to call for a ban on research that could result in chimera creation.

Cheshire told the BBC, "Research projects that create human-animal chimeras risk disturbing fragile ecosystems, endanger health and affront species integrity."

Prof. Henry Greely, head of Stanford University's ethics committee, admitted that the project might seem "a little creepy."

But Prof. Irving Weissman, who heads the university's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology, had more of a blasé attitude about the human-animal synthesis.

In the November election of 2004, Weissman was one of the leading proponents of California's Propostition 71, the $6 billion taxpayer-financed stem cell boondoggle. Weissman had also argued against a ban on chimeras at the 2004 fall hearings in Washington, D.C.

In an apparent effort to ease some troubled minds, Weissman said that he would monitor the experiment closely and destroy the creatures at the slightest suggestion of human-like brain patterns.

Word has it that the folks who are most happy about the project wear little black ears and work at Disney.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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