Futuribles Journal n° 312

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

The Other Stem-cell Debate


Futuribles regularly publishes articles about the relationship between science and society, and has already given coverage on several occasions to questions of bioethics. This time we are publishing an article on the scientific experiments conducted on "chimeras" (animals that have been mixed with living components from other species, such as human beings), especially in connection with stem-cell research.
Jamie Shreeve is a scientific journalist and writer who is much involved in the debates on bioethics in the United States, and whose last book about the "Genome War" caused a considerable stir when it appeared in 2004. In it he set out the main economic, scientific and social issues arising from genetic research, following from a study that he made behind the scenes at Celera Genomics, the firm set up by Craig Venter in order to sequence the whole of the human genome. He also highlighted the risks associated with allowing the results of such research to be taken up by the private sector and the sometimes overblown egos of those involved.
In this article he stresses the uneasiness about the experiments in which human cells are introduced into animals at an early stage in their development. While describing the value of these manipulations for medical research, he also shows how ambiguous they are and how they infringe the taboo against mixing different species. Finally, he presents the point of view of the main American experts on bioethics who have examined these issues in an attempt to establish what is and is not acceptable.

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