Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scientists find new way to piss me off.

Warning: Some disturbing facts about animal cruelty are in this post. Skip this one if such things disturb you.

It's the start of my day. I hobble over to the computer and turn it on, then make my way into the kitchen to make coffee. I limp back to the computer, double-click IE, and take pain meds. My home page pops up. It's AOL, and I've chosen that as my home page because that's one of two places where I get important e-mails. The page starts cycling through the various stories about sports, entertainment, and...news.

Sometimes the news is actual news. Like the other day, when Australian police were asking for help in solving a murder case; the deceased man had apparently been shot to death with a nail gun to the head, and the x-ray was disturbing to say the least.

But today, the leading news was about "Ruppy." No, this is not Scooby-Doo saying puppy. Here is the article I read:

A team of South Korean scientists has created the world’s first fluorescent puppy, according to New Science magazine.

The cloned beagle, dubbed Ruppy, which is short for Ruby Puppy, made her photographic debut on Thursday. The four-legged experiment looks like a normal pup in daylight, but under ultraviolet light she glows red.

The odd effect was created by cloning cells that include a red fluorescent gene that sea anemones produce.

Ruppy is transgenic, meaning she has genes from another animal. Scientists said they hope this will pave the way to model human diseases in dogs, whose relatively long life-span could make them better study subjects than other animals.

While scientists have created other animals that glow, Ruppy is a first for canines. The magazine said scientists also created four other beagles that share her same red trait.

Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea lead the team that created the dogs. Stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang was also part of that team. Hwang has come under fire for fraudulent work with human cells, but he also helped create the first cloned dog, Snuppy, and an investigation later validated the dog experiment.

One scientist called the glowing puppy an "important accomplishment." But another dog geneticist doubted the experiment's value, calling the developmental process "laborious, expensive and slow."

Now, when I first saw the article's title, I thought they were making novelty dogs for the super-rich. "For the low, low price of $50,000, you too can own a glow in the dark puppy!" It's silly. It's stupid. It's harmless.

Then I hit paragraph four, and discovered that the adorable puppy has been created for purposes of vivisection. "Human diseases in dogs." Do dogs not have enough diseases of their own? Does the phrase "sicker than a dog" mean anything anymore? There are enough humans in the world with human diseases, and with the signing of a waiver, plenty of studies can be done. When you create a life like that - a living, breathing creature - it's not just property anymore.

I would be more interested if scientists managed to clone a puppy's liver, and just the puppy's liver. Then they stand before the microphones of the press and say, "We have successfully figured out a way to genetically filter out damaging genome, and have recreated a liver that is perfectly viable for transplant should the same puppy need such a thing." No more searching for the perfect donor when someone is in need of new organs. It would be fantastic if the could take a little blood from me, head for the lab while prepping me for surgery, and by the time I'm on the operating table and my pancreas has been removed, a new one that is genetically matched to me, and washed of all faults, it ready to be installed. Ta-da! No more diabetes.

Alas, many stupid things have been done in the name of science, especially with animals. Mind you, I'm not a huge animal rights activist, but I don't think animals should be used when the tests either do nothing or don't have viable results. And because I once did a speech against vivisection, I've read some startlingly stupid things.

Scientists once believed that newts had directional senses other than their eyes. To prove this theory, they took a bunch of newts and cut their eyes out...just to see what happened. How this helped humanity, I have no idea. It certainly didn't help the newts any.

Another experiment I read about involved baboons. Distinctly disproportionate to humans, scientists were using live baboons to study the effects of car impacts. They wanted to see how hurt a human would become. But a human and a baboon have different musculature, and different reflexes. There was no truly viable data that they could truly gather from their experiments. If I remember correctly, someone finally blew the whistle on them when they started using pregnant baboons to see the effects of a crash on a pregnant mother and her fetus.

And so we come to the conundrum of advanced science creating life for the purpose of experimentation. They've been cloning animals for years, and I guess I haven't been paying much attention as to why. My thoughts ran along the lines of Jurassic Park, where they were possibly going to use the technology to bring back animals that humans had brought to extinction, or repopulate species that were dwindling for the same reason. I mean, wouldn't it be amazing if there was a news announcement, "Scientists released 1,000 cloned dolphins into the oceans today in the hopes that they would breed with existing dolphins to begin repopulating the waters."

Instead, the message I received today is, "Scientists have discovered a new way to piss off Rob Meadows, and are now creating transgenic species to study diseases that will affect these animals differently than humans, and progress differently due to accelerated metabolisms. The scientists claim the animals as mere property, and theirs to do with as they please, because they hold the patent on it. Rather than argue against the morals of such a thing, other scientists have chosen the weaker, less morally founded argument of the process being 'laborious, expensive and slow.' Humans with warmer, softer hearts and minds across the globe were pissed, as was Rob."

1 comment:

Katrascythe said...

That's... really disturbing. I wouldn't mind a glow in the dark, puppy, mind you, but I would much rather they not be used for researching human diseases. There are plenty of sick humans out there that would probably willingly donate themselves on the off-chance that they got cured. This shouldn't be done to dogs.

I've actually seen where they've done the same things with cats. They're white Himalayans in the day, and they glow red under ultraviolet. They actually beautiful cats and I'd really like to have a glow-in-the-dark furball running around my house. But if I had a cat like that, I'll never let anyone hurt him just to do research.

My kitty. My puppy.