In Greek mythology, the Chimera is a monstrous fire-breathing creature, typically described as having the head of a lion, with a snake as a tail and the head of a goat emerging from its back.
Just as it terrorised the minds of the Greeks, this vision is also the cause of much consternation regarding the successful creation of the first human-pig hybrid embryos at the Salk Institute in California. In fact, such human-animal hybrids are often referred to as “chimeras”.
While this scientific advance offers the prospect of growing human organs inside animals for use in transplants, it can also leave some people with a queasy feeling. It was precisely this queasiness that led to the moratorium on funding for this programme of research.
People, it seems, just can’t stomach the idea of growing human kidneys in pigs.
Given the potential advances that this research offers, our objections should probably be based on more than a mild case of nausea. Yet there are a few enduring aspects to the way we perceive human-animal hybrids that makes it difficult to think about them clearly.
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