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Veterinary Genetics?

I recently saw Arnold's sci-fi film the 6th Day. If you enjoy sci-fi I would highly recommend this entertaining film by the governor of California. Its central premise revolves around introducing cloned pets to make the way for cloned humans, which were outlawed by the government. This article confirms that reality may be emulating fiction.

"Veterinarians for pampered pets will soon be in the vanguard of human health care, and the reason is regulatory. Controversial restrictions on embryonic-stem-cell research and cloning effectively squelch efforts to bring these biotechnologies to bear on human therapies. The moral quandaries and bioethical concerns underlying these restrictions can't be dismissed. But the different standards we apply to animals create provocative loopholes for the innovative and opportunistic biomedical entrepreneur."

"Please follow the money. Legally, ethically, morally--and yes, even financially--pet lovers are superbly positioned to fund breakthrough biotechnology treatments and genetic therapies for their loved ones. Americans now spend $19 billion a year on veterinary care, up from $11 billion just seven years ago, according to a recent New Yorker article on pet care. That $19 billion figure approximates the research and development budget for the National Institutes of Health, which oversee public medical research funding in the United States. The rate of growth remains robust."

"A cat crippled by leukemia or a dog suffering from a degenerative autoimmune disease might indeed be a perfect candidate for embryonic-stem-cell therapy. Cloning tricks and techniques that might be inappropriate for people-Goodbye, Dolly--could well represent appropriately heroic intervention by a pet-driven biotech initiative. Yes, many people understandably blink at the thought of spending $10,000 to save a cherished pet. But market forces reveal that there are tens of thousands of pet lovers who don't. All it would take is one Labrador-loving billionaire to create the veterinary counterpart to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute--an enormously influential philanthropic funder of innovative biotech."

"The conclusion? America's love affair with animals will slowly but inevitably undermine the religious, moral, and ethical arguments against genome-based therapies for people. Healthier cats and dogs will generate an irresistible demand for healthier children and adults. Wealthy pet lovers will be the essential instrument of innovation adoption that will drive the next generation of medical treatments."

David Stevens, MD, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, comments: "Christian bioethicists generally don?t see problems with animal experimentation for the purpose of finding cures for human diseases--if it is done in a humane manner. Animal cloning research is also permissible, within certain boundaries, to increase productivity or for other good ends. Dolly was cloned in the hope of creating herds of sheep that would secrete human breast milk. It is wrong, though, to conduct experiments on animals to develop techniques to be transferred to patients that would be unethical to do on human beings.

Unfortunately, the plan outlined above may work. There is a desensitization that familiarity brings. What would have shocked us on TV and caused a storm of protest 20 years ago we barely notice now, even with our children in the room.

We face formidable forces in this arena. Too many researchers see themselves as the high priests of science-ism, a pseudo religion that holds health and longevity as the greatest goods. In this view, there is nothing after this world, so each person must hold on to it as long as possible. Almost anything, including the unborn, can be sacrificed to that end. To such people, we who oppose this agenda must be discredited, marginalized or outmaneuvered. Yet ww know that we have been placed in our professional roles for such a time as this."

Technology Review January 2004

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