Baa, Baa, black sheep

By Nancy Black

Where was the huge, 30-point headline? Why didn’t anyone stop the presses? How come nobody is talking about this? Scientists announced last week they had successfully created a human-animal hybrid and the general public didn’t even blink an eye.

Am I the only one who thinks it is amazing (and kind of creepy) that scientists made an embryo from stem cells that is part human/part sheep (a “Sheeple”)? And it doesn’t stop with sheep.

Researchers across the world are mixing human stem cells with those of other species as well. (Trust me, do not search for pictures of these creatures — real or Photoshopped — on the Internet unless you have a cast-iron stomach.)

We planned ahead years ago, when our child was born, for scientists to make huge advancements in the use of stem cells. Umbilical cord blood and cord tissue stem cells are normally thrown away as medical waste during delivery of a baby. My partner and I paid to harvest and store our baby’s stem cells. We hoped way back when that, one day, those stems cells might come in handy if anyone in the family got sick. According to Viacord, the company we use, “Today, cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of nearly 80 diseases,” including cancer, juvenile diabetes and heart disease.

The human-animal hybrids are being developed in hopes of growing much needed organs for humans infected by diseases. National Geographic states: “Every hour, six people in the United States are added to the national waiting list for organ transplants — and each day, 22 people on the list die waiting. In the U.S. alone, more than a hundred thousand people need heart transplants each year, but only about 2,000 receive one.”

The research of human-animal hybrids could be accelerated if it were better funded. The U.S. National Institutes of Health currently forbid public funding for such studies, though the group is reconsidering its stance. Up until now, private donors have funded all the research.

I’m loving all the scientific advancements, but I am worried at the same time. Stem cells in a Petri dish are one thing. An actual living being is, absolutely, a completely other thing. What about feelings? Don’t these creatures have senses and emotions? It is all pretty mind-boggling, when you really think about the ramifications of crossing humans with other species.

Before we know it, we won’t have to ask a sheep for its wool. We’ll be growing our own.