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Scientists Just Made Sheep-Human Hybrids. Here’s What You Need to Know

If you don’t know what a chimera is, it might be time to learn, as modern science has gone beyond the imagination of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and meddled with the actual DNA of humans and animals, and put their DNA together in a lab. The resulting chimera, a sheep-human hybrid, is an interspecies achievement that its creators want to believe is a promising development for growing human parts that could be used for transplantation. ScienceAlert reports that while scientists admit this research is both controversial and imperfect, they also believe it’s important for people “who are dying on a daily basis” for lack of human transplant organs.

For someone who’s not aware of what the implications of fiddling with people’s genes are, the first thought that comes to mind is: And what could be wrong with that? Unfortunately, plenty of things can go wrong — and already have under a different type of experiment called CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat, a gene editing technology that scientists hope will help cure diseases like cancer and diabetes.

The truth is a new study has highlighted the uncertainties of CRISPR, showing that unintended mutations may result when you dice and splice the human genome. While it’s too soon to say whether the mutations are a cause for alarm, it’s not too soon to call attention to the fact that gene editing has gone viral in a way you may not even realize. With CRISPR gene-editing capabilities, three categories of DNA alterations become possible, including the ability to “correct” embryonic DNA or “enhance” it with certain genes for physical appearance or mental capabilities.

This brings up the potential of creating "designer babies" with a certain color hair or increased intelligence, which is one reason why about 40 countries have already banned the genetic engineering of human embryos and 15 of 22 European countries prohibit germ line modification. And while there’s no doubt that gene-editing technology is here to stay (unless something truly devastating cuts its popularity short), it’s also fair to say that a far greater challenge may be invoking a manner of ethics and scientific integrity into the system that would prevent unintended effects that could cause devastation for generations to come.
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