Tag: primates

Bioethics News

Chimpanzees First Animal to Display Markers of Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Kent State University have found that aged chimpanzees develop brain characteristics that resemble those found in brains of humans with early Alzheimer’s disease. Nature has suggested that the “findings from humanity’s closest relatives could help researchers to understand why people develop dementia, as well as suggest that caretakers of aging, captive chimpanzees watch them closely for behavioural changes.”

Until the research was published in Neurobiology of Aging, it was widely thought that only human suffered from the disease and its severe symptoms of dementia. Neurological markers of the disease include plaques of amyloid-β proteins, tangles of tau protein and the complete loss of neurons.

The research team examined 20 brains of chimpanzees that had died between ages 37 and 62, assessing the regions typically affected in Alzheimer’s patients. They found that contrary to prior belief that only human primates can have both plaques and tangles in their brains, damaged brains of chimpanzees also contain both.

The United States has not permitted biomedical research on chimpanzees since 2015, but some researchers believe that such research could be highly valuable for aging human and animal populations alike.

The post Chimpanzees First Animal to Display Markers of Alzheimer’s appeared first on Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI).

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

Human genome editing: We should all have a say

Françoise Baylis stresses that decisions about the modification of the human germline should not be made without broad societal consultation.

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Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is nothing if not a pioneer. In 2007, his team published proof-of-principle research in primates showing it was possible to derive stem cells from cloned primate embryos. In 2013, his team was the first to create human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Now, in 2017, his team has reported safely and effectively modifying human embryos with the MYBPC3 mutation (which causes myocardial disease) using the gene editing technique CRISPR.

Mitalipov’s team is not the first to genetically modify human embryos. This was first accomplished in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists led by Junjiu Huang. Mitalipov’s team, however, may be the first to demonstrate basic safety and efficacy using the CRISPR technique.

This has serious implications for the ethics debate on human germline modification which involves inserting, deleting or replacing the DNA of human sperm, eggs or embryos to change the genes of future children.

Those who support human embryo research will argue that Mitalipov’s research to alter human embryos is ethically acceptable because the embryos were not allowed to develop beyond 14 days (the widely accepted international limit on human embryo research) and because the modified embryos were not used to initiate a pregnancy. They will also point to the future potential benefit of correcting defective genes that cause inherited disease.

This research is ethically controversial, however, because it is a clear step on the path to making heritable modifications – genetic changes that can be passed down through subsequent generations.

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

Human genome editing: We should all have a say

Controversial gene editing should not proceed without citizen input and societal consensus. (Shutterstock)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, is nothing if not a pioneer. In 2007, his team published proof-of-principle research in primates showing it was possible to derive stem cells from cloned primate embryos. In 2013, his team was the first to create human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Now, in 2017, his team is reported to have safely and effectively modified human embryos using the gene editing technique CRISPR.

Mitalipov’s team is not the first to genetically modify human embryos. This was first accomplished in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists led by Junjiu Huang. Mitalipov’s team, however, may be the first to demonstrate basic safety and efficacy using the CRISPR technique.

This has serious implications for the ethics debate on human germline modification which involves inserting, deleting or replacing the DNA of human sperm, eggs or embryos to change the genes of future children.

Ethically controversial

Those who support human embryo research will argue that Mitalipov’s research to alter human embryos is ethically acceptable because the embryos were not allowed to develop beyond 14 days (the widely accepted international limit on human embryo research) and because the modified embryos were not used to initiate a pregnancy. They will also point to the future potential benefit of correcting defective genes that cause inherited disease.

This research is ethically controversial, however, because it is a clear step on the path to making heritable modifications – genetic changes that can be passed down through subsequent generations.

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

Reflections on “Voracious Science, Vulnerable Animals” by John P. Gluck

Voracious Science, Vulnerable Animals is Dr. John Gluck’s account of his transformation from primate researcher to animal research ethicist. It challenges readers to consider the “voracious” pursuit of new discoveries in biomedical research, the justification for using primates and other animals in that pursuit, and the role of IACUCs in promoting ethical animal use.

The post Reflections on “Voracious Science, Vulnerable Animals” by John P. Gluck appeared first on Ampersand.

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

New advances and challenges in the production of human-animal chimeras

They had overcome the obstacle of using human embryonic stem cells, but that even so, a ethical difficulty remained with the producing organs formed almost entirely of human cells in experimental animals.

It seems a little excessive that, in less than two months, we have dedicated three reports to the latest studies by Juan Carlos Izpisúa and his group. Nonetheless, we believe that the importance of his work merits this level of interest.

In our first report, we referred to a study published in Nature, which describes — among other breakthroughs — the production of human-animal chimeras in order to generate quasi-human organs for use in transplantation. In the report, we mentioned the ethical difficulties evident in the study as a result of the use of human embryonic stem cells.

In the second, we discussed the new steps taken in the production of human organs in animals, in connection with an interview by Izpisúa published in Investigación y Ciencia (the Spanish version of Scientific American). In the interview, Izpisúa particularly stressed that, from an ethical point of view, they had overcome the obstacle of using human embryonic stem cells, but that even so, a potential ethical difficulty remained with the possibility of producing organs formed almost entirely of human cells in experimental animals.

Now, we evaluate these experiments by analysing the latest findings published in an article in scientific journal Cell (see HERE).  We also discuss another paper by a different research group, in which the authors also describe the production of human-animal chimeras, likewise with the intention of producing organs for transplantation.

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

Successful Male Contraceptive Gel Trial Brings New Form of Birth Control Closer

February 7, 2017

(The Guardian) – A male contraceptive gel has been found to work reliably in a trial in primates, bringing the prospect of an alternative form of birth control for humans closer. The product, called Vasalgel, is designed to be a reversible and less invasive form of vasectomy and in the latest study was 100% effective at preventing conception. A blob of the gel is injected into the sperm-carrying tube, known as the vas deferens, and acts as a long-lasting barrier.

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

Research Ethics Roundup: Publicly Posting Primate Research Data, New Common Rule Takes into Account Public Concerns, Zika Research Recruitment Efforts, and Critics Question CIRM’s Output

This week’s Research Ethics Roundup examines the case for sharing data from research with primates, what the new Common Rule looks like, successful Zika research enrollment numbers, and the debate over what the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has achieved.

The post Research Ethics Roundup: Publicly Posting Primate Research Data, New Common Rule Takes into Account Public Concerns, Zika Research Recruitment Efforts, and Critics Question CIRM’s Output appeared first on Ampersand.

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

Reconsidering Research on Primates

Jeffrey Kahn, a Johns Hopkins bioethicist who chaired the Institute of Medicine’s chimpanzee review, floated the possibility of a similar review for other primate research. Responding to a comment about the necessity of that research, Kahn noted that similar claims had been made about chimp experiments

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

Jennifer Greenwood, Becoming Human: The Ontogenesis, Metaphysics, and Expression of Human Emotionality, MIT Press, 2015

Becoming Human by Jennifer Greenwood is one of the most thought-provoking books on emotion and its expression I have read. At its core, it attempts to provide an account of the development of full human emotionality and in so doing argues the emotions are “transcranial.” Emotions are radically realized outside our nervous systems and beyond our skin. As children, we are functionally integrated affectively with our mothers; so much so that in a sense our emotions are not ours alone. Regardless of whether one agrees with her radical claims, it is a must-read for those interested in emotion and expression. In order appreciate the significance of this book, let me sketch its contents and raise a few criticisms.

Many, but certainly not all, psychologists and philosophers assume that there are basic emotions (BEs) and higher-cognitive emotions (HCEs). The former include fear, anger, disgust, happiness, surprise, and sadness; and the later include guilt, shame, and pride amongst others. BEs are thought of as natural kinds involving facial expression, homologous traits shared with non-human primates, specific brain structures, and stereotyped behaviors. HCEs differ in that they often do not have unique physiological profiles, facial expressions, dedicated brain regions, and culturally vary quite a bit. Greenwood argues that there are affective precursors that develop into BEs and HCEs. However, the distinction between BEs and HCEs lulls us into naïve views about nature and nurture, biology and culture. We have not taken their development from childhood as seriously as we should. Both develop through time.

Greenwood has us consider human infants.

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

Syllabus: Nature/Culture Now! by Elizabeth F.S. Roberts

Nature Culture Now!, an upper division anthropology lecture course at the University of Michigan, traces the trajectory of nature/culture debates in American anthropology through modules on race, sex, and health and disease. The course is co-taught by a biological anthropologist, and myself, a cultural/medical anthropologist. The impetus for Nature/Culture Now! came from a formative experience I had as an undergraduate anthropology major at UC Berkeley in the early 1990s. One of the major course requirements was the blandly titled “Current Issues in Anthropological Thought”. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a cultural and critical medical anthropologist, and Vince Sarich, a biological anthropologist, co-taught “Current Issues” the semester I enrolled. Both professors relished intellectual combat and battled the whole semester about the cultural construction versus the biological essentialness of topics ranging from race, mother love, intelligence and schizophrenia. The arguments were fierce; students took sides and the stakes were extremely high. I learned a tremendous amount watching and participating in these heated and often extremely painful debates.

Almost twenty years later, I wanted to develop a similar course that incorporated recent shifts in theories of nature/culture, building on the four fields strength of the anthropology department at the University of Michigan, especially the dynamism of the biological anthropology subfield. At least from my vantage point as a critical medical anthropologist of the life sciences, cultural constructionism and biological essentialism were no longer useful distinctions for knowing the world, except in tracing how thoroughly the divide continues to shape how we ask questions. Instead, cultural and medical anthropologists, using a situated and constructionist (not cultural constructionist) approaches tend to work to document how historically contingent biological processes are very much part of what shapes lived, expressive worlds, and biological anthropologists, deploying approaches like epigenetics and evolutionary developmental biology, are increasingly focused on how bodies are shaped within particular histories and environments.

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.