Tag: farm animals

Bioethics News

CRISPR, Pigs, Organs, Ethics: Some Key Considerations

Michael S. Dauber, M.A., GBI Visiting Scholar

Luhan Yang and members of her research team at eGenesis have taken a crucial step in growing organs in animals that may be used to provide organs for therapeutic transplants in humans, according to a study published in Science Magazine on Thursday, August 10th. Researchers involved in the study used CRISPR, a genetic editing technique, to “knock out” 25 genes that cause porcine endogenous retroviruses (sometimes referred to as “PERV genes”) that make ordinary pig organs unsuitable for transplants because PERVs can infect human transplant recipients. The result was the birth of 37 baby pigs without PERV genes.

The move comes at a time when CRISPR experiments are becoming increasingly popular. Last week, a team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov published the results of the first successful attempt to modify human embryos using CRISPR by American scientists in Nature. The researchers successfully deleted a gene responsible for several fatal heart conditions.

While the results are a significant step in developing techniques for growing organs suitable for human transplantation, scientists must still travel a long road before any human patients will receive such organs. Researchers will need to determine whether or not organs from pigs developed using CRISPR can be safely and effectively transplanted into other animals first. Another hurdle is the cost and complexity of the technique: Yang’s experiments with her team involved embryos produced through cloning, an expensive technique that is not always completely effective: indeed, in Yang’s study, only a few of the cloned embryos were viable.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Perspectives in learning; Incorporating discussion materials and activities on ethics into science curriculum.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has released over 60 educational resources that can be used as tools to teach students, researchers, clinicians, and other professionals to recognize and address ethical aspects of their work and understand how deliberation can inform ethical decision-making. These resources draw from the Bioethics Commission’s reports, and while all reports produced to date have been topic-specific, bioethics education and improving bioethics literacy has been a constant thread throughout the Bioethics Commission’s work.

The Commission’s most recent report, Bioethics for Every Generation, outlines a variety of models that can be used to teach ethics, and emphasizes that ethics education is about preparing students how to think ethically, rather than what to think. Bioethics for Every Generation also emphasizes that ethical questions and topics can be incorporated into existing courses, such as biology, chemistry, social studies and history courses, among others.

Frank Strona, the Bioethics Commission’s Senior Communications Analyst and Adjunct Faculty with National University’s Department of Health Sciences recently had an opportunity to sit down and interview Steven Kessler, Instructor of Biology and Microbiology at Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma, CA and former Visiting Fellow with the Bioethics Commission, discusses how incorporating bioethics into his science curriculum has affected his students and his work as a science educator.

FRANK STRONA: Tell us about how you have used bioethics to enhance traditional science education.

STEVEN KESSLER:  I incorporate bioethical issues into my traditional science classes in a number of ways.  The most satisfying way is to spend an entire class period delving deeply into one or two (if they are related) issues. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Experimentation continues on chimera embryos

A group of scientists in the US are continuing to conduct research on human-animal hybrid embryos, despite a moratorium on funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist from the University of California, Davis, has been working with a research team to implant human induced pluripotent cells in pig embryos, with the hope of growing human organs in developing porcine fetuses.

Ross has availed himself of alternative funding sources in the wake of the NIH’s decision last September to withhold funding until further study was done into the ethics of chimera experimentation.

“We’re not trying to make a chimera just because we want to see some kind of monstrous creature,” Ross told NPR. “We’re doing this for a biomedical purpose.”

After injecting human cells into the pig embryos, Ross and his team implant the embryo in a pig uterus, and allow it to grow for 28 days until they remove it again for dissection.

Importantly, Ross’s team is not the only one to have continued research following the moratorium. At the beginning of this year, it was revealed that scientists at the Salk Institute in California and the University of Minnesota had created hybrid embryos with the aim of growing human organs inside farm animals such as sheep and pigs.

Some bioethicists are gravely concerned about the creation of chimera embryos. “You’re getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity,” Stuart Newman, a professor of cell biology and anatomy at the New York Medical College, told NPR.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

In Search for Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal and Human

May 19, 2016

(Scientific American) – A handful of scientists around the United States are trying to do something that some people find disturbing: make embryos that are part human, part animal. The researchers hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases. One way would be to use chimera embryos to create better animal models to study how human diseases happen and how they progress. Perhaps the boldest hope is to create farm animals that have human organs that could be transplanted into terminally ill patients.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: “How should vegetarians actually live? A reply to Xavier Cohen.” Written by Thomas Sittler

This essay is a joint winner in the Undergraduate Category of the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student, Thomas Sittler

“How should vegetarians actually live? A reply to Xavier Cohen.”

Ethical vegetarians abstain from eating animal flesh because they care about the harm done to farmed animals. More precisely, they believe that farmed animals have lives so bad they are not worth living, so that it is better for them not to come into existence. Vegetarians reduce the demand for meat, so that farmers will breed fewer animals, preventing the existence of additional animals. If ethical vegetarians believed animals have lives that are unpleasant but still better than non-existence, they would focus on reducing harm to these animals without reducing their numbers, for instance by supporting humane slaughter or buying meat from free-range cows.

I will argue that if vegetarians were to apply this principle consistently, wild animal suffering would dominate their concerns, and may lead them to be stringent anti-environmentalists.

If animals like free-range cows have lives that are not worth living, almost all wild animals could plausibly be thought to also have lives that are worse than non-existence. Nature is often romanticised as a well-balanced idyll, so this may seem counter-intuitive. But extreme forms of suffering like starvation, dehydration, or being eaten alive by a predator are much more common in wild animals than farm animals. Crocodiles and hyenas disembowel their prey before killing them[1]. In birds, diseases like avian salmonellosis produce excruciating symptoms in the final days of life, such as depression, shivering, loss of appetite, and just before death, blindness, incoordination, staggering, tremor and convulsions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Fernando Vidal’s and Nélia Dias’s Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture by Frédéric Keck

Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture

By Fernando Vidal and Nélia Dias (editors)

Routledge, 2016, 264 pages

What do natural reserves, botanical and zoological parks, anthropology museums and department of linguistics have in common? They all describe their objects as endangered beings. The series of essays collected by Fernando Vidal and Nélia Dias start from this diagnosis. If there is a contemporary “endangerment sensibility” in global communities of experts, what is its history, and what kinds of assemblages does it produce?

Raising such historical questions involves stepping back from the catastrophic discourse on species extinction and the sense of crisis that often accompanies environmental humanities. When so many different objects are described and conceived as endangered, what does it tell about our contemporary ontologies? First and foremost, it means that the classical distinction between a stabilized nature and a realm of culture opened to human initiative is obsolete. At the age of the ‘anthropocene’ (beautifully evoked by Julia Adeney Thomas in her coda to Vidal’s and Dias’s volume entitled “Who is the ‘We’ Endangered by Climate Change?”), when the human species appears as a geological force able to transform its environment permanently, all the beings we live with appear as more or less endangered.

The two terms that constitute the title of this book—biodiversity and culture—do not rely, therefore, on the classical distinction between nature and culture. On the contrary, the editors rely on Philippe Descola’s argument that the problem of biodiversity forces us to think “beyond nature and culture”, since natural diversity is as endangered as cultural diversity.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The moral limitations of in vitro meat

By Ben Levinstein and Anders Sandberg

Almost everybody agrees factory farming is morally outrageous, with several billions of animals living lives that are likely not worth living. One possible solution to this moral disaster is to make in vitro meat technologically and commercially viable. In vitro meat is biologically identical to real meat but cultured in a tank: one day it may become cheaper, more efficient and safer than normal meat. On animal welfare grounds, then, in vitro meat seems like a clear win as it has the potential to eliminate or greatly reduce the need for factory farms. However, there is a problem…

Factory farming is morally outrageous. To highlight a few of the atrocities: Laying chickens in the US are kept in cages under .06 square metres (around the size of an A4 sheet of paper) without exposure to natural light. They’re starved for 7-14 days to force molting and increase overall productivity. Chickens raised for meat grow disproportionately large breasts relative to their skeletons and internal organs. They frequently suffer “heart failure, trouble breathing, leg weakness, and chronic pain”. Pregnant sows, in most US states and much of the world, are confined to gestational crates, which usually do not allow them enough room even to turn around. Beef cattle begin their lives outside, but their final months are spent standing in their own waste in a feedlot with neither pasture nor much shelter. According to FAOSTAT estimates, tens of billions of animals are kept on factory farms each year.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

New sessions at 2015 IACUC Conference incorporate attendee feedback

by Maeve Luthin, Professional Development Manager

The upcoming 2015 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Conference will feature some exciting new session topics that originated from suggestions shared in last year’s conference evaluations.

We received repeated requests to expand conference offerings for those who work with animals that are beyond the typical laboratory species. The new Not Your Average IACUC track includes sessions on working with nontraditional laboratory animals, including: A8: Managing Non-Traditional Species When They Come Into the Laboratory; A9: What IACUCs Need to Know About Laboratory Aquatics Oversight; B10: Toolbox for Protocols Using Wild Species; C8: IACUC Deliberations Using Wildlife Scenarios; and D10: IACUC Challenges When Investigators Use Large Animal Models, which will focus on the use of large farm animals in research.

Attendee evaluations also provided the genesis for Panel II: Studies of Animals When They Are the Targeted Beneficiaries. This plenary session will address the use of animals in areas other than biomedical research focused on human health, through either the spillover of diseases; unintended alteration of animal populations or communities; or changing our use of land to protect animal populations.

PRIM&R received consistent feedback about attendees’ desire to ask general questions regarding the regulations, their everyday work, and topics that arose during the conference sessions. In response to this, the final session of the conference will be a Town Hall Meeting hosted by conference co-chairs F. Claire Hankenson, DVM, MS, DACLAM, and Christian E. Newcomer, VMD, MS, DACLAM. Throughout the conference, attendees will have the opportunity to submit their questions onsite at the PRIM&R Help Desk or through email.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Christine Korsgaard on our Moral Obligations to Animals [Uehiro Lecture 2]

by Karamvir Chadha

 What are our moral obligations to animals? This was the subject of Christine Korsgaard’s Uehiro lecture on 2 December 2014, the second of a three-lecture series on the moral and legal standing of animals. (To listen to the lecture follow this link)

Korsgaard argued for the conclusion that animals have moral standing. Her argument for this conclusion was characteristically Korsgaardian: it was both extremely ambitious and grounded in a distinctive interpretation of Kant.

Korsgaard began by explaining why there’s such a thing as value in the world at all. Value, she argued, is explained in terms of the existence of valuing, which occurs necessarily in valuing beings like us.

 

So why is there value in the world at all? According to Korsgaard, humans have a special form of self-consciousness – rationality – that makes us aware of the motives on which we act, and capable of evaluating those motives as good or bad reasons. As rational beings we need to justify our actions. To do this, we must suppose that some ends are really worth pursuing – that they are absolutely good. Without metaphysical insight into the realm of intrinsic values, all we have to go on is that some things are good or bad for us. We take our ends to matter absolutely because we take ourselves to matter absolutely. ‘Ourselves’ here cannot just mean ourselves qua rational beings. For many of the things we take to be valuable – our love of sex, food, and freedom from terror – we value not in virtue of our rationality, but rather our animality.

 

Korsgaard went on to argue that we value ourselves as ‘ends in ourselves’ not just as rational beings, but as beings for whom things can be good or bad.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.