A parahuman or para-human is a human-animal hybrid or chimera. Scientists have done extensive research into the mixing of genes or cells from different species, e.g. adding human (and other animal) genes to bacteria and farm animals to mass-produce insulin and spider silk proteins, and introducing human cells into mouse embryos.
Human-animal hybrids and chimeras
Parahumans have been referred to as "human-animal hybrids" in a vernacular sense that also encompasses human-animal chimeras. The term parahuman is not used in scientific publications. The term is sometimes used to sensationalise research that involves mixing biological materials from humans and other species. According to Daily Mail, as of 2011, more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos were created in British laboratories since the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.[unreliable source]
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There are several reasons for which parahumans or chimeras might be created. The current forms of chimera exist for medical and industrial purposes, e.g., production of drugs and of organs suitable for organ transplantation. Other experiments aim to reveal knowledge about the function of the human body, e.g., by creating mice with a human-like immune system to study AIDS or with a brain incorporating human nerve cells. Restrictions on cloning and stem cell research have made chimera research an attractive alternative.
If a line of parahumans could be created using germline engineering, if they also bred true, and if they were different enough from ordinary humans to be unable to breed with us, then they would qualify as a species. Parahumans created using only somatic genetic engineering would have human children. Another key difference is that a germ-line parahuman would have to be modified before birth, while a somatic parahuman could be an adult human who chooses to be modified. Which one is more ethical is a matter of debate. An argument for the former is that no harm is done to a person born with modified genes because the person would have had no control over their genes in the first place. An argument for the latter being more ethical is that the changes would be made with informed consent.
There is a scientific field of parahuman research. Ethical, moral, and legal issues of parahuman research are speculative extensions of existing issues that arise in actual research.
Some transhumanists see this technology as one of many ways to overcome fundamental human limitations, such as disease and aging, and point out the many potential commercial and medical benefits. The debate can also be seen in terms of individual freedom to use germinal choice technology or reprogenetics.
Other ethical issues (shared with genetic engineering in general) involve the legal and moral status of a hybrid individual or race, whether the decision-making power over its creation should lie with governments or individuals, whether a distinction should be drawn between strictly medical treatments (restoring lost function) and those enhancing humans above some "normal" standard, whether medical ethics allow doctors to offer parahuman-related treatments, and whether xenotransplantation poses risks of cross-species disease transfer.
The developmental biologist Stuart Newman applied for a patent on a human-nonhuman chimera in 1997 as a challenge to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Congress on the patentability of organisms.
In the United States of America, H.R. 5910 was a House Bill in the 110th Congress entitled Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2008. Representative Chris Smith (R, NJ-4) introduced it into the House on April 24, 2008. The same bill was introduced in the Senate as S.2358 by Sen. Sam Brownback (R, KS) into the Senate on November 15, 2007.
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- Mott, Maryann (January 25, 2005). "Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2006-03-22.
- Martin D., Caldwell S. 150 human animal hybrids grown in UK labs: Embryos have been produced secretively for the past three years Daily Mail
- "Position on Human Germline Genetic Modification". December 24, 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
- Weiss, Rick (February 13, 2005). "U.S. Denies Patent for a Too-Human Hybrid". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-02.