Many people sent me versions of this story, and in an odd bit of "synchronicity", when I read one of those versions, my first thought was the movie Splice, and lo and behold, as more and more versions of the story came into my inbox, other versions of the story also mentioned the movie. Many thanks to all of you who brought this story to my attention.
For those of you who have not seen Splice, it's a science fiction movie in the "Frankenstein" mold, but with a twist, for rather than mad scientists trying to create life, they are, as the movie's title suggests, trying to splice two different life forms together via the latest techniques in genetic engineering, in this case, human and "something else," we're never sure exactly what. The mad scientists in this case work for a company named NERD (Nucleonic Exchange Research and Development), which impresses one as being the "biology-genetics" wing of C.S. Lewis's NICE, the DARPA-esque government agency from That Hideous Strength, and standing for the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments. The movie lurches through a variety of overblown scenes, including bows to transgenderism and the alchemical androgyne, as the human-animal hybrid Dren (named for the company NERD, spelled backwards) becomes carnivorous, changes sexes, and develops... well, a temper.
Thus far, of course, Splice-like scenarios have remained the realm of science fiction, as scientists and governments have been reluctant to allow such human-animal (or plant!) hybrids to "come to term," but now, according to this story, Japan has lifted the lid on that Pandora's box:
Now, regular readers of this website will know how well such genetic engineering worked in the case of GMO foods, just imagine how well it will work for human-animal hybrids.
But what's the purpose of this "grand" experiment? According to this version of the story, it's simple:
Stem cell biologist Hiromitsu Nakauchi has been waiting for this moment for more than a decade.
After years of planning, the persistent researcher has at last received approval from a government willing to pursue one of the most controversial scientific studies there is: human-animal embryo experiments.
While many countries around the world have restricted, defunded or outright banned these ethically-fraught practices, Japan has now officially lifted the lid on this proverbial Pandora's box. Earlier this year, the country made it legal to not only transplant hybrid embryos into surrogate animals, but also to bring them to term.
As a lead stem cell researcher at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University, Nakauchi has gone from country to country, chasing his dream of one day growing customised human organs in animals like sheep or pigs.
With more than 116,000 patients on the transplant waiting list in the United States alone, Nakauchi hopes his idea can transform lives.
That ultimate goal is still a long way off, but the next step in his research has at last been given the green light by ministry officials in Japan. As the first researcher to receive government approval since the 2014 ban, Nakauchi plans on taking things slowly so that public understanding and trust can catch up.
"We don't expect to create human organs immediately, but this allows us to advance our research based upon the know-how we have gained up to this point," Nakauchi told The Asahi Shimbun.
The experiments will start by injecting human induced pluripotent stem cells into rat and mice embryos, all of which have been genetically manipulated so that they cannot make pancreases.
There you have it, it's all being done to "help" people by growing replacement organs in animals using stem cells, stems cells which, at least at present, sometimes come from aborted (that is to say, murdered) human foetuses (that is to say, babies).
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I can think of at least one thing, and herewith my high octane speculation of the day. Suppose, for a moment, you're Seward de Rottenchild, Lord Bloviate, or David Allrich Rockefailure. You're super-rich, a never-satisfied amoral busybody, and you enjoy busybodying so much that you want to do it for ever and ever. There's just one problem, your heart is wearing out, and you need a new one. Enter the hybrid-splicing technique courtesy of the mad scientists of the NERD division of NICE, who take some cell samples from you, splice in a bit of stem cells from an aborted foetus, and they grow you a little hupigman, carry it to term, kill it (avoiding the thorny question of its possible sentience, consciousness, personhood and so on), harvest the heart, and transplant it in you. Voila! Problem solved. The same can be done with many other wearing-out organs, which will allow you to carry on busybodying to your - pardon the pun - heart's content. Assuming you don't have all sorts tissue rejection issues, the way forward is sunny and bright.
Until, that is, you attend your next secret meeting of BBHECCPCS (Billionaire Busybodies for Hope and Effective Climate Change, Population Control, and Sustainability) at Big Sur. Shortly after exchanging secret handshakes and performing your cremation of care ritual mock(?) sacrifice, to the consternation of the other invited guests, you're seen wallowing naked in the mud, nose to the ground, sniffing for truffles to eat. The other guests mutter to themselves that you haven't quite been yourself since the last transplant of your special pig-grown replacement heart (or other organ). Some other astute billionaire busybody points out that such behavior, while odd for humans, is entirely typical for pigs. The gloomy silence is broken when yet another billionaire busybody jokes that there really isn't much difference between billionaire busybodies and pigs anyway, so let him have his fun. Everyone has a good chortle, and the Secret Meeting continues with discussions about What To Do About Russia and Putin.
It sounds silly, I know, and it's to a point, for there's another issue these mad scientists are missing, besides the tissue rejection issue, and that's genetic memory. Experiments in mice which have had human brain cells spliced into them have already shown that they learn and retain memory much faster than ordinary mice. In other words, there's a psychological and neurological effect to all of this. Indeed, some transplant patients who have received donor organs - hearts and kidneys being the most typical - have reported having memories that are not their own, but those of their donors. Genetic memory, in other words, seems to this author to be quite real, and with it, and with the splicing of human and animal genes, some of that genetic memory could be quite bestial in nature, and the behavior of "Dren" from Splice comes a step closer to reality.
See you on the flip side...