Animals on the Cutting Edge
by Jan Baughman

Recent advances in medical research demonstrate that our knowledge and imagination are the only limits to the potential for advancement. Sure, animal activists say that we are all God's creatures and that a rodent has every right to life and liberty that humans do, but some of the things we are learning may have amazing and strange consequences.

Researchers in Japan have taken sperm-producing cells (spermatogonia) from infertile men, implanted them into the testicles of rats and mice, added a few cells from the rodents' eye (the eye cells killed the white blood cells that wanted to kill the spermatogonia), and the spermatogonia produced viable human sperm. They have not reported whether the human sperm-wielding rodent was able to impregnate a female (rodent). But one can only imagine the progeny possibilities. "My father was a rat" may one day take on a whole new meaning. No doubt, the overpopulationists are terrified at the prospect of humans starting to breed like rats. And as things get REALLY out of control, the Rodent-Humans, or "Romans" as they're called, will begin experimentation with laboratory humans and it's Nuremberg all over again. No matter how technologically advanced we become, history will always manage to repeat itself.

There is another interesting testicular advance looming on the horizon. There are certain cells in the testes called "sertoli cells", or "nurse cells", that pass nutrients and oxygen to sperm and protect them from being destroyed by the body's immune system. The nurses also produce growth factors, and when you mix in some neurons from the brain and put this concoction in a damaged brain, the neurons grow. That is, they grow in lab rats. So the idea is to take nurse cells from pig testes and use them to regrow neural connections lost in (human) diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The remarkable breakthrough would bring notoriety to the phrase "pig-headed". One has to be careful, of course, with the various swine diseases that could be transmitted directly into the brain -- Mad Hog Disease would be a tragic outcome. Although this tragedy could result in the welcome demise of the hot dog industry.

In recent studies, researchers have been able to take bladder cells from dogs, grow new bladders and transplant the lab-grown bladder back to the dog. So far, the bladders have lasted up to a year. Millions of people who suffer from bladder disease could benefit from this technology. (I'll take an extra-large, please.) Hopefully, this wouldn't lead to humans acquiring the instinct to mark their territory. The world already has enough border disputes arising out of the production of testosterone.

Published February 7, 1999
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