Alexis Gambis 19 January 2017

Chimera: Reality or Myth?

Films

A wiser intelligence might now truthfully say of us at this point: here is a chimera, a new and very odd species come shambling into our universe, a mix of Stone Age emotion, medieval self-image, and godlike technology.  - E.O. Wilson

Over the last few years, we've heard about breakthroughs in genetic engineering and the artificial creation of hybrid forms. Sometimes their purpose is more resistant Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Sometimes they're created to fight deleterious genetic defects. Sometimes they're designed so scientists can simply learn more about molecular mechanisms.

We've heard with both excitement and trepidation about the new genomic editing tools such as CRISPR.

With the birth of chimeric organisms, we have now reached a new level of ethical scrutiny and responsibility. At the University of California, Davis, embryonic chimeras were created by implanting human stem cells into pig embryos, and at Rockefeller University, human-mouse chimeras were formed by engrafting human embryonic stem cells into mouse blastocysts.

Human-designed chimeras open the heated debate of whether we should transfer human traits and potential to non-human forms. How do we create policy and laws to inform the responsible use of these powerful tools? Should humans be in the director's chair driving evolutionary changes in name of fighting disease, inferring higher fitness or understanding basic developmental questions? 

Where do we draw the line with these forced alterations and what are the ethical and moral implications?

What is a Chimera?

In genetics, a chimera is an organism or tissue that contains at least two different sets of DNA. 

The term is derived from the Chimera of Greek mythology, a fire-breathing monster part lion, part goat, and part dragon. 

Chimeras are distinguished from mosaics, which are organisms that contain genetically different populations of cells originating from a single zygote, and from hybrids, organisms containing genetically identical populations of cells originating from a cross of two different species.

These Chimera films explore, through hybrid forms of documentary, fiction, archival footage and animation, what we mean when we define the term "chimera." With these shorts, we set the stage for the launch of our first native Labocine production "Chimera Experiments."

Transgenic SpidergoatsIt's clear, if you think about it very carefully, that it would be impossible to breed a goat that had spider silk protein in it. There's no way that mutation would occur under any natural circumstance, no matter how you bred them. Randy Lewis, a professor at the University of Wyoming has done otherwise; designed goats that can be used in spinning spider silk.

The Origin of EukaryotesRecombinant DNA and hybridization illustrated.

Blue-Eyed Me - This is the world of the 99-cent lifeform. Like a social media profile or an online shopping list tailored to our hobbies, we collect genetically modified pets, engineered to look like their owners.

The Ray Cat Solution - In the 1980s, a curious project was proposed by two scientists seeking to send a long-lasting warning to the future: to create a breed of cats that would change colors when they are near a source of dangerous radiation?

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes - Learn the process by which a line of genetically modified mosquitoes was engineered to reduce populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the wild.

Launch of "Chimera Experiments"

Labocine and Imagine Science Films invite filmmakers to apply to produce a chapter of “Chimera Experiments,” an upcoming feature-length anthology film with segments linked through stories from the most influential scientists of our time.

The theme of “Chimera Experiments” is evolution in its natural and artificial forms — the deliberate and random modifications of an organism. It’s a commentary about advances in genetics and transgenic materials. And it examines how interactions with other beings shape our existence.

While the episodes are wildly diverse, filmed with various cinematic approaches (animation, archival, lab footage, live action, performance) they  also share a few common elements:

Learn more and apply at ChimeraExperiments.com or by emailing [email protected].

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