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Brave New World: Part II
Winston wrote an earlier article on a recent Patent Office decision denying patent rights to a "humanzee": a hypothetical chimp with many (too many?) human cells as a result of genetic tinkering by scientists. The National Academy of Sciences is behind schedule in producing its report on "the patenting and licensing of human genetic material and proteins, which represent and extension of intellectual property rights to naturally occurring biological material and scientific information....." The NAS has, however, produced another report on a related issue. This one is entitled Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

There are few more controversial issues than human stem cell research. Some believe that this type of research can be conducted ethically and is important to cure human disease. Others believe research using stem cells from human embryonic blastocysts ("hES") necessarily involves the death of a living human donar.

Winston has no answer to this controversy, but the NAS does. Its report recommends guidelines for ethically conducting certain types of hES research. These guidelines would be voluntary in the research community, and would be implemented primarily through the Institutional Review Boards familiar to most scientific researchers.

The federal regulatory system is a party to this controversy, whether it wants to be or not. The Patent Office has already issued an opinion on IP rights in human genetic material, which would include stem cells. The next battle ground may be in federal court or at the FDA, which probably has jurisdiction over some of these issues.

The NAS report also addresses questions regarding humanzees. According to its report, [r]esearch into which hES cells are introduced into nonhuman primate blastocysts" should not be allowed. Moreover, "[n]o animal into which hES cells have been introduced at any stage of development should be allowed to breed." Otherwise, the report believes experiments involving mixing human genetic material with other animals's can be conducted ethically. The report recommends guidelines for such research.

Winston commends the NAS for its courage in tackling these issues. Any position they took on it was destined to make them some enemies. Winston also does not want anyone placing human DNA in his genome. Everyone knows that dogs are clearly a superior species. Their gene pool should not be diluted by inferior human genes.

  • Click for NAS stem cell report.
  • Click here for NAS Website on IP rights in human genetic material and proteins.
  • Click here for related CRE article.

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