The Senate narrowly voted down a Republican amendment on Wednesday that would have criminalized the creation of certain types of chimeras, or human-animal hybrids, for research purposes.
The vote was 49-48 with every Senate Democrat, including Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, voting against the amendment. All Republicans voted in favor. Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee did not vote.
48-49: Senate defeats Braun (R-IN) amendment to prohibit certain types of human-animal chimeras. 60 votes were needed for passage. pic.twitter.com/of3m3gLjSm
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) May 27, 2021
Proposed this week against the backdrop of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) potentially lifting its moratorium on research using chimeras, the Endless Frontier Act would have imposed penalties as high as $1 million and up to 10 years in prison, citing the ethical concerns of such research.
The bill also contained language cracking down on the transfer of a human embryo to a non-human womb.
“We shouldn’t need to clarify in law that creating animal-human hybrids or ‘chimeras’ is ethically unthinkable, but sadly the need for that very clear distinction has arrived,” said Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who co-sponsored the amendment with Republican Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana and Steve Daines of Montana.
“Human life is distinct and sacred, and research that creates an animal-human hybrid or transfers a human embryo into an animal womb or vice versa should be completely prohibited, and engaging in such unethical experiments should be a crime,” Sen. Braun added. (Senate Unanimously Passes Amendment Banning Gain Of Function Research In China, But There’s A Huge Catch)
“In trying to compete with China, we shouldn’t become like them. It’s critical that we draw a bright line against unethical forms of research that fail to recognize the distinct value of humans over animals,” Sen. Daines, who is the founder and chairman of the Senate pro-life caucus, told the Daily Caller.
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) released guidance on Wednesday backing chimeric research, saying that “Chimeric embryo and in utero research … should proceed for the minimum time necessary to achieve the scientific aim,” according to Fox News.
“This research must proceed incrementally, stopping at well-defined timepoints to assess the degree and scope of chimerism during development before proceeding to full gestation, if full gestation is among the well-justified goals of the research. To avoid unpredictable and widespread chimerism, researchers should endeavor to use targeted chimerism strategies to limit chimerism to a particular organ system or region of the gestating chimeric animal,” the guidelines added.
The NIH has yet to release its own guidance on human-animal hybrid research.