A near-strict party-line vote in the Senate has rejected an amendment that would have criminalized participation in scientific experimentation involving human-animal hybrids, i.e. chimeras.
Fox News reports that 48 Republicans voted in favor of the measure, while 47 Democrats and the upper chamber’s two independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME) voted against the amendment to legislation aimed at curbing the National Institutes of Health were it to lift its moratorium on chimera research.
Democratic Sens. Thom Tillis (NC) and Joe Manchin (WV) and Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn (TN) did not vote.
The Endless Frontier Act, introduced last week, was co-sponsored by GOP Senators James Lankford (OK), Mike Braun (IN) and Steve Daines (MT).
The legislation also contained language that would prohibit the transference of a human embryo into a non-human womb, and vice-versa, Fox News noted, and would subject violators to penalties as high as $1 million or “the amount equal to twice the amount of the gross pecuniary gain” and includes provisions for up 10 years in prison.
The lawmakers underscored the moral significance of prohibiting this concerning kind of research.
“We shouldn’t need to clarify in law that creating animal-human hybrids or ‘chimeras’ is ethically unthinkable, but sadly the need for that very clear distinction has arrived,” Lankford explained.
“Human life is distinct and sacred, and research that creates an animal-human hybrid or transfers a human embryo into an animal womb or vice versa should be completely prohibited, and engaging in such unethical experiments should be a crime,” Braun said.
The proposed legislation also comes as the International Society for Stem Cell Research issued new guidance supporting research involving chimeras.
“Chimeric embryo and in utero research … should proceed for the minimum time necessary to achieve the scientific aim,” the guidance read, going on to carefully detail how long a human-animal hybrid organism should be allowed to live, and where.
“This research must proceed incrementally, stopping at well-defined timepoints to assess the degree and scope of chimerism during development before proceeding to full gestation, if full gestation is among the well-justified goals of the research. To avoid unpredictable and widespread chimerism, researchers should endeavor to use targeted chimerism strategies to limit chimerism to a particular organ system or region of the gestating chimeric animal.”
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