Christine and the 'mice with human brains'

James H. Fetzer and J.R. Dunn
Christine O'Donnell is being pilloried for a remark she made in 2007 to Bill O'Reilly concerning "mice with human brains." Prime evidence, we're told, that O'Donnell is your standard-issue ignorant and uneducated right-winger babbling about things she just doesn't -- not to mention can't -- understand.

In a point of fact, it's quite clear that O'Donnell is almost completely correct in her assertion and her critics dead wrong. Such human-animal hybrids are no rarity. The technical term for them is "chimeras", and there are hundreds, if not thousands of varieties in existence.

Among them are mouse-human neural chimeras, a project being carried out by Dr. Irving Weissman, a well-respected Stanford researcher, with the assistance of Dr. J. Mike McCune. Dr. Weissman sought and was given permission for such an experiment from Stanford University as early as 2005. He began research shortly afterward, and has published several papers dealing with the results. According to Scientific American,  his ultimate goal is a mouse with a brain composed completely of human neural tissue -- exactly what O'Donnell was referring to.

No effort at secrecy has been made - Dr. Weissman's research has been discussed in the Washington Post, the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal, Reason Magazine, and the National Geographic, along with no end of specialty journals. In other words, such creatures exist and there is no excuse for any well-informed individual not to know about it.

Why create chimeras? To provide a means of carrying out neurological research impossible to do on human beings. Mice are animals (sorry, PETA!), and can be subject to severe procedures to fit the researcher's requirements. There has been vigorous debate concerning the ethical and scientific questions surrounding chimeras. Dr. Weissman himself is fully cognizant of potential dangers, having gone on record to warn against allowing such creatures to breed.

So, score one for Christine O'Donnell, and zero for her critics. This is all very similar to the attacks on Ronald Reagan over his assertion that trees cause the largest amount of air pollution. A pure statement of fact -- Reagan was simply quoting a study concerning pollution in the form of tars by pines and firs. (This is what causes the Smoky Mountains to be smoky, by the way.)

Eventually, somebody's going to want to experiment with injecting human brain cells into liberals -- but we have put our foot down somewhere.
Christine O'Donnell is being pilloried for a remark she made in 2007 to Bill O'Reilly concerning "mice with human brains." Prime evidence, we're told, that O'Donnell is your standard-issue ignorant and uneducated right-winger babbling about things she just doesn't -- not to mention can't -- understand.

In a point of fact, it's quite clear that O'Donnell is almost completely correct in her assertion and her critics dead wrong. Such human-animal hybrids are no rarity. The technical term for them is "chimeras", and there are hundreds, if not thousands of varieties in existence.

Among them are mouse-human neural chimeras, a project being carried out by Dr. Irving Weissman, a well-respected Stanford researcher, with the assistance of Dr. J. Mike McCune. Dr. Weissman sought and was given permission for such an experiment from Stanford University as early as 2005. He began research shortly afterward, and has published several papers dealing with the results. According to Scientific American,  his ultimate goal is a mouse with a brain composed completely of human neural tissue -- exactly what O'Donnell was referring to.

No effort at secrecy has been made - Dr. Weissman's research has been discussed in the Washington Post, the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal, Reason Magazine, and the National Geographic, along with no end of specialty journals. In other words, such creatures exist and there is no excuse for any well-informed individual not to know about it.

Why create chimeras? To provide a means of carrying out neurological research impossible to do on human beings. Mice are animals (sorry, PETA!), and can be subject to severe procedures to fit the researcher's requirements. There has been vigorous debate concerning the ethical and scientific questions surrounding chimeras. Dr. Weissman himself is fully cognizant of potential dangers, having gone on record to warn against allowing such creatures to breed.

So, score one for Christine O'Donnell, and zero for her critics. This is all very similar to the attacks on Ronald Reagan over his assertion that trees cause the largest amount of air pollution. A pure statement of fact -- Reagan was simply quoting a study concerning pollution in the form of tars by pines and firs. (This is what causes the Smoky Mountains to be smoky, by the way.)

Eventually, somebody's going to want to experiment with injecting human brain cells into liberals -- but we have put our foot down somewhere.