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State Panel Bans Human-Animal Hybrids

In Louisiana, the State Legislature has made it a crime to create human-animal hybrids. Under the newly approved legislation, the crime would be punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Promoted by State Senator Danny Martiny, the bill passed without objection by members of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, before going to the full State Senate.

Specifically, the bill prohibits the combination of human sperm with a nonhuman egg, and nonhuman sperm with a human egg, and the development of human neural tissue within a nonhuman animal. The bill does not prohibit some common medical practices such as the use of pig valves in human heart surgery.

The creation of human-animal hybrid embryos is a common procedure in many types of experimental embryonic stem cell research, although outside of the embryonic stem cell world such practices remain highly controversial, primarily for the ethical can of worms that is unleashed by such research. Hybrid experimentation was the topic of widespread debate last year in Britain when funding for such procedures was abruptly halted, despite the fact that Parliament had passed the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which legalized the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, in May of 2008. (Please see the related news article on this website entitled, “Human-Animal Hybrid Experimentation in the U.K. is Halted”, dated January 13, 2009). Although such hybrids are usually destroyed during the process of embryonic stem cell experimentation, the possibility of such an embryo surviving past the embryonic stage and growing to adulthood would be a bioethical nightmare, if not also a scientific one as well. Despite the immense biological interest that such hybrids present, the ability to create entire new species in the laboratory is usually a cause for grave concern within the legal and religious communities if not the scientific community.

Earlier this year, research conducted by the company Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts yielded disappointing results regarding the effectiveness of hybrid techniques. When human DNA was combined with nonhuman ova (eggs) to create hybrid embryos, researchers found that the human DNA did not reprogram effectively and therefore failed to generate stem cells.

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