Human-Nonhuman Chimeras in Embryonic Stem Cell Research

57 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2008

See all articles by Stephen R. Munzer

Stephen R. Munzer

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: October 6, 2008


Research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) continues apace. Some forms of this research insert primary hESCs, hESC lines, or more fully differentiated cells derived from them into gametes, developing embryos or fetuses, or adult individuals from nonhuman species. The biological results of such experiments are human-nonhuman chimeras - that is, creatures that contain human and nonhuman cells. Such chimeras can serve as testing models for drugs and other therapies and perhaps be living vehicles for "farming" human organs and tissues with the aim of transplanting them into human beings. And yet, human-nonhuman chimeras raise acute moral, social, and legal problems - above all in cases where the chimeras have cognitive capacities that approximate those of human persons. This Article articulates the first systematic and integrated account for handling the moral perplexities, issues of social policy, and problems of legal regulation and patentability of these chimeras. It formulates and justifies eight principles for deciding whether the creation and use of human-nonhuman chimeras are morally permissible and applies this moral framework to some vexing cases. Next, it uses this framework to improve on existing discussions of the social policies - especially those that inform the reports of medical and scientific commissions - that affect these chimeras. Lastly, it builds on the moral framework and social policy analysis to indicate the essential legal statutory provisions and legal regulations pertaining to chimeras, and to show why only certain human-nonhuman chimeras ought to be patentable.

Keywords: Stem cells, social policy, morality, patents, legal regulation, human-nonhuman chimeras, enchanced cognitive capacity

JEL Classification: K11, K13, K29, K39

Suggested Citation

Munzer, Stephen R., Human-Nonhuman Chimeras in Embryonic Stem Cell Research (October 6, 2008). Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2007; UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 08-30. Available at SSRN:

Stephen R. Munzer (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

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