Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Mice Will Have 100% Human Brain Cells

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Eh, creepy, very creepy...

Stemnews.com reports:

...a group of university researchers in California's Silicon Valley are preparing to create a mouse whose brain will be composed entirely of human cells.

Researchers at Stanford University have already succeeded in breeding mice with brains that are 1 per cent human cells. In the next stage they plan to use stem cells from aborted human foetuses to create an animal whose brain cells are 100% human.

Professor Irving Weissman, who heads the university's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology, believes the mice could produce a breakthrough in understanding how stem cells might lead to a cure for diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The group is waiting for a key US Government sponsored report, due this month, that will decide how much science can blur the distinction between man and beast.

Stanford's ethics committee has already approved the research, under certain conditions.

Hmmm. I guess we are now living in the age where sci-fi meets reality. Listen, I'm all for using stem cells to cure diseases and whatnot, but there's something very...ummm disquieting about something that starts out as an aborted baby and ends up 'mouse' brain. Yes, I put that bluntly, but it's true.

Of Mice And Men

Of course, if it can be done it will be done, even if not in this country. It's only a matter of time before there are human-esque mice running around some corner of the world (eek!). But I have some questions:

Okay. They say that the brain is 'the seat of consciousness'. Much, even most, of what makes us human stems from the brain (heheh). So does this mean that a mouse with 100% human brain cells could be considered human in some way? (Flipside: What if they made a human whose brain was 100% mouse brain cells...)

Would these mice act really different from regular mice? I.e. would they be smarter or more creative?

What kind of side effects would this have on the mice? (There's gotta be a sci-fi book about that somewhere.)

Does this mean that artificially growing human brains is just around the corner?

What about putting human brain cells in larger, more advanced animals? Now that's scary. (Hell even the smaller, nastier animals... imagine being plagued by human-esque rats!! No, I'm not talking about politicians.)

And lastly, what will PETA say... "Mice are people too!"


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