To A Mouse in 2018

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Fourteenth in a series - M is for Mice

As early as the 16th century the lowly mouse was used in scientific experiments. Today, approximately 95 percent of all laboratory animals are mice and rats. This video (only a minute) explains why mice are so useful in biotech research.

PETA says there are 100 million mice and rats used in lab experiments each year in the USA. A certain number of these are cloned, but that may not make you feel happier for the mice.

Mice… “are remarkable tools.”

A quick look at the list of Nobel prizes for medicine confirms their contribution: discovery of sulphonamides in 1939; penicillin, 1945; yellow fever vaccine, 1951; polio vaccine, 1954; cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes, 1989; HIV-Aids virus, 2008; not to mention prions in 1997. Each time mice played a key part. In the 1980s nearly one-in-three Nobel prizes for medicine were awarded to work on mice. …In genetics, cancer, immune response, embryonic and nervous systems and infectious diseases … in short in most fields, mice are valuable…

Alongside the success stories are accounts of expensive failures. (ibid) After all, mice are not human, so to view them as replicating aspects of our physiology in drawing conclusions for medicine and therapies does have limitations.

To overcome these, mice are altered to allow biotech researchers to better try out models for cures or to better understand the disease or anomaly under review. There are various ways to alter a mouse:

  • Breeding can enhance a particular trait for study
  • Mouse DNA can be modified to edit out a section or gene so that the mouse can be examined for its response to a drug based on its lack of a certain gene. Or, specific DNA can be activated for testing.
  • Mice can be genetically modified by introducing a gene in the germ stage (petri dish) of its reproduction so that it is “transgenic” and expresses human genes. Thus, it has become a new kind of creature. It is no longer a mouse.

Last week a number of news stories reported that the US FDA has signed a contract to purchase fresh human baby parts from aborted fetuses so that they can be transplanted into mice for research projects. The FDA notice stated, “Fresh human tissues are required for implantation into severely immune-compromised mice to create chimeric animals that have a human immune system.”

The slope is slippery. Three summers ago a national scandal erupted with videos published one week at a time beginning in July by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), proving that Planned Parenthood (PP) contracted with biotech companies to supply body parts from aborted babies for research needs. The parts were sold for $50 to $100 or ?, who knows. This was presented by PP as money for necessary expenses in procuring the “tissue.” PP technicians were paid a bonus for intact specimens. It is against the law to sell or acquire human body parts for profit. (PP’s net assets in 2017 were $1.6 billion.)

legal rules for sales of human body parts

The public was stunned. Political action was demanded and some legislators sought answers from PP. The CMP videos proved that abortions were being performed to retain the integrity of certain organs, though this changed the procedure described in advance to the woman.

The method of suctioning out the fetus that destroyed recognizable parts was changed to removal by other means to retain the liver or thymus, for example. The women were asked to sign off on the plan to use their baby's body parts but were not remunerated. In other words, the money they pay for abortion helps to pay for the research done by biotech companies in need of fresh human tissue. The biotech investors no doubt really appreciate their generous contribution.

It would seem that all of the difficult undercover work of the CMP was for nought.

Robert Burns’ To A Mouse comes to mind, only quoting the final two stanzas:

…But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

The Man of Syn?

Thirteenth and Final in the PE Series, Reviewing Chapter Twelve

Dragon's Breath by Sharon K. Gilbert is the last chapter of Pandemonium's Engine, and its subject matter ends this series of blog posts on a strange note, which seems fitting.

Mrs. Gilbert goes back over some of the Scriptures of Genesis already noted in previous posts and some of the themes, mentioning the "alien abductions" that we sometimes read about in the newspaper or online. She believes these do occur, and give us a glimpse of an "overarching spiritual war."

She wonders if there is a Dragon's breath that can animate humans, just as the breath of God brought to life the first man, and as the Holy Spirit revives men today from spiritual death.

Gilbert enjoys some word play and suggests that the Antichrist might well be the Man of Syn, in other words, his DNA may be synthetic, altered by gene therapy. As a student at Indiana University in the mid-1990s, Gilbert's classes often discussed the ethics of molecular tinkering. She writes:

One class instructor ended a session by handing out a small slip of paper with one question on it: Is it ethical to build a super-soldier clone in order to defend our nation, and if so, is that clone "human"? … email exchanges across the globe echo … that question: Is synthetic biology ethical under any circumstance? (p 363)

Now that we have "cracked the code", Gilbert states, "We dare to imagine ourselves equivalent, nay, superior to the living God! Such hubris cannot, will not, endure for long … " — the Lord will return.

However, until that Day, expect the uninvited, bizarre and unimaginable. For example, did you know that if you have a laptop and a bank account, you can access genomic sequence information and order the nucleic acids and synthesizer for a do-it-yourself Frankenstein kit? "You can cut-and-paste your own little Frankenstein monster, complete with as many 'mommies' and 'daddies' as you like." (p 367)

Synthetic Genomics is a growing industry. The current, global market for just the reagents used in synthesis has grown to a billion dollars, and that figure is climbing. This industry doubles its activity every 14 months, and that number is several years old. The Obama administration has issued a challenge to scientists to reduce the cost of DNA analysis, and with that, lower the cost of production as well — with the promise of cheaper medical diagnosis and treatment. However, as the process becomes more affordable to anyone with a laptop, it also becomes much more volatile. Designer pathogens would be the most difficult to fight, since their sequences would be entirely novel …

Sharon Gilbert has a website, and invites you to get to know Jesus Christ. Her chapter ends with this promise: "His return is imminent. And when He comes, Jesus Christ will strike down the Dragon, put him in chains, and ultimately throw him and all who follow him into the lake of fire."

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.