Planet of the Apes: Relax, it's only a movie

Two developments in the news this week that advance the privatization of life and portend the bifurcation of humanity into sub-humans and uber-humans. First, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in a case brought by the ACLU and others that the company Myriad Genetics is entitled to patents it has claimed for two natural human gene mutations, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. (PHG Foundation, Aug. 5; GEN, July 29) The idea is ostensibly finding ways to fight cancer, but it beats us why a private company should have the right to patent something created by nature—much less a part of the human genetic code! Days earlier, the Daily Mail revealed that scientists in the UK "have created more than 150 human-animal hybrid embryos," which has left critics "warning of a 'Planet of the Apes' scenario."

Figures seen by the Daily Mail show that 155 'admixed' embryos, containing both human and animal genetic material, have been created since the introduction of the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act.

This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; 'cybrids', in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and 'chimeras', in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.

Scientists say the techniques can be used to develop embryonic stem cells which can be used to treat a range of incurable illnesses.

Three labs in the UK—at King's College London, Newcastle University and Warwick University—were granted licences to carry out the research after the Act came into force.

Right, always in the name of bettering humanity and curing disease, so anyone who dissents can be dismissed as a misanthropic reactionary. Meanwhile, the advance of this technology spells the practically inevitable doom of the human race, or its eventual transformation into a degraded post-humanity, or (at least) the emergence of a caste of corporate-controlled sub-humans. HG Wells warned of this in The Time Machine (1898) and The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). So did Francis Fukuyama in the nonfiction Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (2003). And now we get to anxiously gnaw our popcorn as genetically engineered simians take over the world in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Again, Hollywood plays on extremely real fears, even if they are only held by the masses on a subconscious level—but their very exploitation by the entertainment industry is a part of the propaganda process by which they are delegitimized, allowing the headlong lurch into dystopia to continue without protest. As we have had occasion to say before, inevitably a part of the message is, "Relax, it's only a movie."

See our last post on the battle for human evolution.

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Supreme Court takes middle ground in gene patent case

The US Supreme Court ruled (PDF) unanimously une 13 in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated. The court also found that synthetically created DNA known as complementary DNA (cDNA) is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring. Myriad Genetics [corporate website] patented two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The two genes are isolated genes—different from native genes because the process of extracting them changes their molecular structure but not their genetic code. In an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court held that the isolated genes are not patentable, but that synthetic cDNA is patent eligible:

cDNA does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring, isolated DNA segments. ... Petitioners concede that cDNA differs from natural DNA in that "the non-coding regions have been removed." ... They nevertheless argue that cDNA is not patent eligible because "[t]he nucleotide sequence of cDNA is dictated by nature, not by the lab technician." ... That may be so, but the lab technician unquestionably creates something new when cDNA is made. cDNA retains the naturally occurring exons of DNA, but it is distinct from the DNA from which it was derived. As a result, cDNA is not a "product of nature" and is patent eligible under §101, except insofar as very short series of DNA may have no intervening introns to remove when creating cDNA. In that situation, a short strand of cDNA may be indistinguishable from natural DNA.

The court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a separate short opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

Gene patents remain a controversial issue around the world. In February the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Myriad could patent the BRCA1 gene because the isolated gene is not natural, but rather the product of human intervention.

From Jurist, June 13. Used with permission.

Mad scientists grow human 'brain' in laboratory

The Sun reports today that scientists at Ohio State University have grown a primitive human "brain" (an "'organoid'— similar to an unborn baby's brain") in a laboratory, which they say will be helpful in developing treatments for Alzheimer's. Anyone who does not recognize this "advance" as the death knell of human freedom is way out of touch with reality. In a new years, it will be your new, improved Alzheimer's-resistant brain, TM Monsanto. And Monsanto will repossess it if you miss a payment.

No, we aren't joking.

Mad scientists create 'chimera' embryos

Under the loaded headline "In Search For Cures, Scientists Create Embryos That Are Both Animal And Human," NPR reports:

A handful of scientists around the United States are trying to do something that some people find disturbing: make embryos that are part human, part animal.

The researchers hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases.

One way would be to use chimera embryos to create better animal models to study how human diseases happen and how they progress.

Perhaps the boldest hope is to create farm animals that have human organs that could be transplanted into terminally ill patients.

But some scientists and bioethicists worry the creation of these interspecies embryos crosses the line. "You're getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity," says Stuart Newman, a professor of cell biology and anatomy at the New York Medical College.

The experiments are so sensitive that the National Institutes of Health has imposed a moratorium on funding them while officials explore the ethical issues they raise.

Nevertheless, a small number of researchers are pursuing the work with private funding. They hope the results will persuade the NIH to lift the moratorium.

"We're not trying to make a chimera just because we want to see some kind of monstrous creature," says Pablo Ross, a reproductive biologist at the University of California, Davis. "We're doing this for a biomedical purpose."

The NIH is expected to announce soon how it plans to handle requests for funding.

Recently, Ross agreed to let me visit his lab for an unusual look at his research. During the visit, Ross demonstrated how he is trying to create a pancreas that theoretically could be transplanted into a patient with diabetes.

It then goes on to detail a process by which pig embryos are stripped through "gene-editing" of the DNA code needed to grow a pancreas, and human pancreas-code inserted in its place. I guess we should be grateful that they bothered to quote a critic—and for the moratorium. But we fear it won't last—in large part because of this sickening, incessant propaganda about this kind of research being for human betterment, as if we are all supposed to forget that we live under capitalism. "Search for cures," my ass. They are in search of profits—and ultimate privatization of the human organism and the very mechanisms of biological evolution. Bad enough that in a few years you won't own your own pancreas, but will be carrying around a Monsanto-patented one. What's even worse is the long-term implication of corporate control of evolution, which essentially means the extinction not only of human freedom but of humanity itself, as we understand it today.

"No job too dirty for a fucking scientist." — William S. Burroughs