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Karen Maschke – Nonhuman Animals Containing Human Cells: Ethics and Oversight | GES Colloquium, Spring 2023

January 31, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

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Nonhuman Animals Containing Human Cells: Ethics and Oversight

Karen Maschke, PhD, Research Scholar at The Hastings Center

Website | Twitter @hastingscenter

This presentation focuses on ethical and oversight issues as they relate to the insertion of human cells into nonhuman animals, e.g., “chimeric research.”


Research involving the insertion of human cells into nonhuman animals at various stage of development – referred to here as chimeric research – has helped scientists learn how human cells behave in a living environment. Advances in human stem cell science and gene editing are enabling scientists to more extensively and precisely insert human cells into nonhuman animals at any stage of development. Scientists have conducted in vitro experiments with chimeric embryos and in vivo studies that create chimeric animals. The goals of these studies include developing more accurate models of human diseases, creating inexpensive sources of human eggs and embryos for research, and developing sources of tissues and organs suitable for transplantation into humans. Yet concerns have been raised that by biologically altering nonhuman animals with human cells – particularly at an early stage of the chimeric animal’s development – scientists may end up changing them in morally relevant ways, especially if the chimeric animals exhibit “humanlike” behaviors or capacities that they previously lacked. An NIH-funded interdisciplinary research project of The Hastings Center and Case Western Reserve University examined the ethical, oversight, and policy issues regarding research that involves the transfer of human embryonic or induced pluripotent cells, or cells derived directly from them, into nonhuman animals or nonhuman animal embryos.

This presentation highlights three of the project’s recommendations:

  1. scientists, journalists, bioethicists and others writing about chimeric research should use precise and accessible language that clarifies rather than obscures the ethical issues at stake;
  2. animal welfare is a primary ethical issue and should be a focus of ethical and policy analysis as well as the governance of oversight of chimeric research; and
  3. enhanced communication between institutional committees involved in oversight of chimeric research is needed, as well as a mechanism for a national discussion amongst those in oversight of these studies.

Related links:

Speaker Bio

Karen J. Maschke, PhD is a Research Scholar at The Hastings Center and the editor of the Center’s journal, Ethics & Human Research. As a researcher with training in political science and bioethics, she focuses on policy and ethical issues related to the introduction, use, regulation, and oversight of new biomedical technologies. She recently completed two projects: the NIH-funded project, “Actionable Ethics Oversight for Human-Animal Chimera Research” (co-Principal Investigator) and the NSF-funded project, “Public Deliberation on Gene Editing in the Wild” (co-Investigator). She is currently the lead co-Principal Investigator of the NIH-funded project, “Informing Ethical Translation of Xenotransplantation Clinical Trials.” She is interviewed frequently by the media, appearing in AP, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Washington Post, Kaiser Health, STAT News, Reuters, and Bloomberg Law. Her recent book (co-authored with Michael K. Gusmano), is Debating Modern Medical Technologies: The Politics of Safety, Effectiveness, and Patient Access (Praeger, 2018).

GES Colloquium (GES 591-002) is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will generally be live-streamed via Zoom, with monthly in-person meetings in the 1911 Building, Room 129. Please subscribe to the GES newsletter and Twitter for updates .


January 31, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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