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Technology

A beast with human skin?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJuly 22, 2011 7:18 AM

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I don't give much thought to chimeras, so this editorial in Nature took me unawares (OA): The legacy of Doctor Moreau:

Innumerable mice and other animals have been engineered in past decades to express a human gene and model specific aspects of human disease. They rarely inspire disgust, because they still resemble their own species. But further advances in genetic and stem-cell technologies mean that researchers could, in theory, create animals with quintessentially human characteristics or behaviours. The sight of an animal with shiny, furless 'human' skin, for example — exceptionally useful for research into skin disorders — could evoke disgust similar to that created by Moreau's beast folk, even though the animal itself might be perfectly comfortable. One of the biggest horrors — although technically unlikely — could be a self-aware monkey, a creature with human thought trapped in the body of an animal, unable to express itself.

Perception, the 'optics,' matters. I think there are going to be serious issues if chimeras resemble humans. It's just too good for video not to trigger outrage. More subtle hybridizations which are less phenotypically salient though....

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