Chimera: What, Why? by P.A. Bennett


I’ve always thought I was pretty open-minded, but a story I heard recently on NPR had me yelling in the car, “Oh, no. That can’t happen.” It was a story about scientists wanting to commit something called chimera. What is chimera? The reporter on NPR described it as a gene editing technique in which human stem cells are put into animals.

The National Institute of Health has been considering whether to fund such research for a while and will be making a decision soon.

The name chimera comes from Greek mythology. The mythological Chimera is a fire-breathing monster with a mixed-up body. It has the body of a goat, topped off with the head of a lion, and a tail like a snake. But as scary as the myth sounds, reality could be so much scarier on so many levels.

Scientists believe chimera can open up many possibilities for the well-being of mankind. They talk about growing human organs in animals to be used when humans need transplants, or using these creatures for research.

My imagination ran wild while I was listening to this story. The reporter pointed out that once the human stem cells are injected into an animal, scientists aren’t sure where the stem cells might eventually migrate. Could they travel to the animal’s brain and give the animal human thinking characteristics…feelings, emotions, sentiments?  The reporter talked about blurring the lines between animal and human.

I can see chimera getting way out of hand. Can you imagine the volatile intellectual and emotional capabilities of a human, combined with the physical agility and killing instinct of a lion or tiger; or the brute strength of a gorilla?

Scientists are smart people and we’ve all been blessed because of their brilliance, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.