LJWorld.com weblogs Congressional Briefing

An unusual debate


That's it: We're officially living in the future.That's the only explanation for word that some scientists are working on the possibility of creating human-animal hybrids - known as "chimeras" - or that there would be a movement afoot to outlaw such creations.Guess who is at the forefront of that movement? Sen. Sam Brownback.[Scientific American reports:][1] "Stem cells facilitate the production of advanced interspecies chimeras--organisms that are a living quilt of human and animal cells. The ethical issues raised by the very existence of such creatures could become deeply troubling. "In Greek mythology, the chimera was a monster that combined the parts of a goat, a lion and a serpent. With such a namesake, laboratory-bred chimeras may sound like a bad idea born of pure scientific hubris. Yet they may be unavoidable if stem cells are ever to be realised as therapies. Researchers will need to study how stem cells behave and react to chemical cues inside the body. Unless they are to do those risky first experiments in humans, they will need the freedom to test in animals and thereby make chimeras. "There are currently no international standard governing chimera experiments. Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act of 2004 banned human-animal chimeras. The US has no formal restrictions, but Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas proposed legislation in March that would outlaw several kinds of chimeras, including ones with substantial human brain tissue."There is opposition.Elsewhere in Scientific American, [Irving Weissman][2] - a Stanford University scientist who in 1988 created a mouse with a human immune system for AIDS research - compares Brownback's efforts to a Soviet-era scientist:"History shows the folly of more oppressive interventions. Trofim Lysenko was a maverick biologist who convinced Josef Stalin in the 1920s that the Darwinian view of natural selection was wrong. Darwinian genetics consequently had no home in Russia for decades, while American agriculture and medicine prospered, very significantly aided by migrant Russian geneticists. The Russian way, then, held that ideology trumps science, leading to the loss of good science for generations. "The spectre of Lysenkoism haunts the US debate over stem cells. Because the isolation of stem cells from an embryo ends the possibility that it could be implanted in a uterus, people who feel any biological entity beyond fertilisation is human think this research is immoral. That view underlies the bills by Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Representative Dave Weldon of Florida that criminalise this practice."Scientific American also has [this article][3] giving an overview of the various scientific debates involved.Brownback remains fiercely opposed to any kind of embrionic stem-cell research.[The Chicago Tribune reports:][4] "Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said that when he meets with people who are ill and pushing him to support embryonic stem cell research, he focuses on trying to find them medical help, putting them in touch with doctors and scientists doing work with stem cells from adults and umbilical cord blood."'We're trying to offer real cures, and you're not killing human beings to do it,' Brownback said."Other links:Pat Roberts links [(Topeka Capital-Journal) Fort Riley to get housing funds:][5] U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts will make an announcement Monday morning at Fort Riley regarding federal funding that will help address the projected housing shortage at that military base. Fort Riley and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will become partners for a new loan program that will help relieve the housing shortage caused by additional troops and civilian personnel headed to the base.[(Wichita Eagle) High gas prices raise demand for ethanol and plants to make it:][6] "The renewable fuels standard of the Senate energy bill is a strong green light for ethanol," said Greg Krissik, a spokesman for United Bio-Energy in Wichita, which markets ethanol and ethanol byproducts. "When that law finally moves through Congress, I think we're going to see a big increase in new plants and expansion of existing plants." The bill, which is scheduled for a final vote Tuedsay in the Senate, is likely to pass, said Sarah Ross Little, a spokeswoman for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. It contains a strong renewable fuels standard, requiring the use of 8 billion gallons of renewable fuels annually by 2012.How to contact As always, you can find information to contact members of the Kansas congressional delegation [here.][7] [1]: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa001&articleID=000BCF6C-7AF0-12B8-BAF083414B7FFE9F [2]: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa001&articleID=0006B472-31D8-12BC-ADB783414B7F014C [3]: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa001&articleID=00031AB9-D9A9-12B9-969983414B7F0000 [4]: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/mld/myrtlebeachonline/news/politics/11995746.htm [5]: http://www.cjonline.com/stories/062505/bus_ftriley.shtml [6]: http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/business/11986383.htm [7]: http://ljworld.com/extra/where_to_write.html#fed


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