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NAS Releases Guidelines

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The National Academies of Science has issued a set of guidelines for human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The guidelines also address the chimera phenomenon.

The guidelines open a path for experiments that create animals that contain some introduced human embyronic stem cells.

These hybrid part human, part animal creatures, called chimeras, would be “valuable in understanding the etiology and progression of human disease and in testing new drugs, and will be necessary in preclinical testing of human embryonic stem cells and their derivatives,” the guidelines committee said.

Chimeras might also be used to grow organs, such as livers, to transplant into humans.

Human embryonic stem cells should be introduced into nonhuman mammals “only under circumstances where no other experiment can provide the information needed,” the guidelines say.

The danger is experiments in which there is a possibility that human cells could contribute in a “major organized way” to the brain of an animal. These experiments “require strong scientific justification,” the committee warned.

Once again we can see that the overriding ethical principle is a scientific pragmatism. Almost no limit is viewed as absolutely impassable, as long as “no other experiment can provide the information needed.”

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

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  • Jordan Ballor writes about the ethical and moral implications of creating genetic chimeras. Ballor comments on a recent New York Times editorial promoting chimera research, calling their thinking “scientific pragmatism” and criticizing the