Chimeras, Hybrids, and Interspecies Research

Politics and Policymaking

Andrea L. Bonnicksen

"A salve for those who find themselves exasperated by popular depictions of contemporary ISR or flabbergasted that such poorly informed beliefs serve as a foundation for legislation."
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In his 2006 State of the Union speech, President George W. Bush asked the U.S. Congress to prohibit the "most egregious abuses of medical research," such as the "creation of animal–human hybrids." The president's message echoed that of a 2004 report by the President's Council on Bioethics, which recommended that hybrid human–animal embryos be banned by Congress.

Discussions of early interspecies research, in which cells or DNA are interchanged between humans and nonhumans at early stages of development, can often devolve into sweeping statements, colorful imagery, and confusing policy. Although today's policy advisory groups are becoming more informed, debate is still limited by the interchangeable use of terms such as chimeras and hybrids, a tendency to treat all forms of interspecies alike, the failure to distinguish between laboratory research and procreation, and not enough serious policy justification. Andrea Bonnicksen seeks to understand reasons behind support of and disdain for interspecies research in such areas as chimerism, hybridization, interspecies nuclear transfer, cross-species embryo transfer, and transgenics. She highlights two claims critics make against early interspecies studies: that the research will violate human dignity and that it can lead to procreation. Are these claims sufficient to justify restrictive policy?

Bonnicksen carefully illustrates the challenges of making policy for sensitive and often sensationalized research—research that touches deep-seated values and that probes the boundary between human and nonhuman animals.

Table of Contents


1. Chimeras

2. Hybrids

3. Cybrids, Cross-Species Embryo Transfer, and Transgenics

4. Beliefs about Interspecies Interventions

Is Early Interspecies Research Fundamentally Distinct?




"An excellent antidote to the prevailing fantastical imagery associated with early interspecies research. . . . Bonnicksen's book should be required reading for anyone involved in creating or implementing policies related to ISR, and it is a valuable resource for the rest of us, especially those who discuss ISR or embryo research in bioethics or health policy courses. Though ISR is the focus of the book, her analysis of the topic also is relevant to a broad range of bioethical issues including the moral relevance of species boundaries or genetic composition; the importance of creating policies based on accurate science and carefully articulated values rather than vague feelings or kneejerk reactions; the need to consider the welfare interests of nonhumans alongside those of humans; and the relevance of myriad influences on people's attitudes toward biotechnological developments."—JURIMETRICS

"A salve for those who find themselves exasperated by popular depictions of contemporary ISR or flabbergasted that such poorly informed beliefs serve as a foundation for legislation."—JURIMETRICS

"Andrea Bonnicksen aptly addresses the scientific, ethical, and policy issues raised by biological research that crosses the human species ‘boundary’. She carefully describes the science and deftly handles the ethical and policy considerations. The result is an eminently readable and important contribution to the literature."—Jason Robert, Center for Biology and Society, Arizona State University

"From the myths of the chimeras and centaurs onward, human-animal combinations have been the stuff of wonder and fear. Now, technology is bringing myth into reality. Andrea Bonnicksen offers a thorough and insightful overview of the science, ethics, and law of interspecies research. Her careful assessment of each new technology is a necessary prelude to reasoned policy development."—Ronald M. Green, director, Ethics Institute, Dartmouth College

"This thoroughly researched, philosophically informed, and scholarly study provides a sober yet unsettling assessment of the real potential of biotechnology to challenge our assumptions about the biological basis of being human."—Mark Sagoff, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland

"A highly readable and comprehensive analysis that will stand as a valuable resource for experts and non-experts alike for years to come. There is nothing else out there that can compare with the breadth of this work, or the penetrating insights it offers for contending with some very challenging public policy issues."—Mark Frankel, director, AAAS Scientific Freedom, Responsibility, and Law Program


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Andrea L. Bonnicksen is Distinguished Research Professor and former chair of the Department of Political Science at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of Crafting a Cloning Policy: From Dolly to Stem Cells and In Vitro Fertilization: Building Policy from Laboratories to Legislatures.

184 pp., 5.5 x 8.5
2 figures, 2 tables
Sep 2009

184 pp., 5.5 x 8.5
2 figures, 2 tables
ISBN: 978-1-58901-574-6
Sep 2009

184 pp.
2 figures, 2 tables
ISBN: 978-1-58901-719-1
Sep 2009

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