Fabricating part-human-part-nonhuman animals, with features of both, seemed like something out of Greek mythology until the late 20th century. New research then on “geeps,” fully developed, viable mixtures of goats and sheep, showed that constructing such “chimeras” was a real possibility. Still, the warning by H.G. Wells, a century before, in his novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” that scientific experiments like this could go terribly awry, seemed fantastical. But this will soon change. At the end of July, it was reported that the biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, director of a laboratory at the Salk Institute in California, produced fetal human-monkey chimeras. He did this in collaboration with researchers in China. And this month the Japanese government is expected to give the go-ahead to scientist Hiromitsu Nakauchi, leader of teams at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California, to conduct similar experiments with the goal of bringing human-pig chimeras to full term. These novel forms of life will soon be among us.
Dr. Nakauchi acknowledges that the concerns of Wells and later writers like Aldous... see more