When life imitates Fullmetal Alchemist

The NIH is [moving forward](http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/08/04/488387729/nih-plans-to-lift-ban-on-research-funds-for-part-human-part-animal-embryos) with plans to financially support & encourage human-animal chimera research.

You can find more info over at the [NIH blog](http://osp.od.nih.gov/under-the-poliscope/2016/08/next-steps-research-using-animal-embryos-containing-human-cells).

Chimera’s have been a longstanding subject of science-fiction/fantasy and many authors have visited it to help inform the ethics debate. A fairly recent exploration of this has been through the [Fullmetal Alchemist](http://www.fullmetalalchemist.com/) anime/manga series. TLDR: it doesn’t go so well, even in animal-animal chimera hybrids.

Yes, that’s fiction and the current NIH proposals are nowhere near as audacious as what’s described in the FMA series. But, surprisingly, you can’t find a large number vocal critics of human-animal chimera research since the modern “open scientific community” is actually pretty harshly judgmental of anyone that tries to limit or challenge “science” in any way (since it’s their religion, as everyone believes in something whether they claim to or not). Open, logical and—more importantly—effective criticisms against purported “progress” are often career-limiting moves. All this at a time in history when the current generation of scientists seems to be excelling at ignoring the potential for unintended consequences of their works.

Folks can (and should) [add their comments](http://grants.nih.gov/grants/rfi/rfi.cfm?ID=57) either for or against this proposal. Not commenting means you agree with the NIH plans and support your U.S. tax dollars & government resources going to support this research; it also means you are on the hook when this eventually goes horribly, horribly wrong.

For those commenting to show their _lack_ of support, I augmented a statement from an [interview wtih Dr. Stuart Newman](http://www.beliefnet.com/news/science-religion/2005/05/the-peril-and-promise-of-mix-and-match-biotech.aspx), who is a vocal detractor of human-animal chimeras (so much so that he tried to prevent it through the USPTO process, which eventually failed) for my submission:

I agree with Dr. Stuart A. Newman that, like every human activity, biotechnology is open to wise and foolish uses. The profit motive, coupled with an uncritical acceptance of the notion that new technology is the main way to human advancement, often leads to hype and incautious applications. In fact, existing technologies – sanitation, keeping water and air unpolluted, enabling poor people to eat enough and well-off people not too much, providing birth control and maternal and infant health services – would save more lives over the coming century than all foreseeable biotechnological applications.

I see no viable way for the NIH to prevent wanton abuse once they open the doors to this type of research. As a taxpayer, a well-read individual and someone who does have a sense of morality, I would rather precious, scant financial and bureaucratic resources go into known, proven endeavors that can have substantial, real, immediate impact.

As the translation from the FMA series states: _”Humans have a limitless desire to use their knowledge in real life…the desire to see what you can do with the power that is given to them…the desire to understand all the secrets in this world and experiment with them.”_ My reasoning and my faith suggest that there are definitely doors that should remain closed.

Cover image from Data-Driven Security
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