PLAN: Chimeras - An Analysis of the Ethics and Legislation Surrounding DNA Technology
Kuznik, a teacher and writer
ethics, government, social studies, science
2 - 6 class days (depending on choice of optional sections)
Objectives - Students will:
"chimera" by interpreting various pieces of historical art for common
review, and discuss the history of species hybrids in lab research
the ethics of chimeric research using a bioethical decision-making model
the ethical issues surrounding recombinant DNA technologies including stem cell
research, inter-species hybridization, and cloning.
and upcoming legislative issues have raised many ethical questions regarding research
into recombinant DNA technologies. Recombinant DNA technologies involve any manipulation
of a DNA sequence for the purposes of scientific understanding. This includes
stem cell research, gene mapping, cloning, and the mixing of species to create
have been manipulating DNA for years and most often it produces superb advances
in the medical sciences. But, while this technology has improved treatments for
such problems as heart disease, diabetes, and organ transplants, the question
remains-How far should we go? Should human DNA ever be mixed with animal DNA inevitably
producing a chimera or hybrid life form? Does the government have a responsibility
to legislate this technology and if so, who makes those decisions? It is a hot
debate with no conclusion in site.
- Fact and Fantasy|
Facts- "A person composed of two genetically distinct types of cells.
Human chimeras were first discovered with the advent of blood typing when it was
found that some people had more than one blood type. Most of them proved to be
"blood chimeras" -- non-identical twins who shared a blood supply in
the uterus. Those who were not twins are thought to have blood cells from a twins
that died early in gestation." www.medterms.com
"The Chimera was a fearful monster, breathing fire. The fore part of its
body was a compound of the lion and the goat, and the hind part a dragon."
"Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully
fused human cells with rabbit eggs."
Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood
flowing through their bodies."
at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year
to create mice with human brains."
this multi-disciplinary lesson, students will first be introduced to a chimera
by examining art history and the mythological creatures depicted. Then, students
will complete a short activity which teaches the basics of chimera research. Next,
students will use an ethical research model to debate the issues associated with
chimeras. Finally, upcoming and recent legislative issues will be presented as
students examine the role of the National Academy of Science which advises the
federal government on scientific issues.
to National Standards
Needed (handouts provided in printer-friendly PDF format)
make these lesson plans better
I: Pre-lesson Activity (optional)
students into five groups. Print the student art history sheets and distribute
one to each group.
Ask students to complete the grid as a group. They are looking for characteristics
that link the pictures together. When students have finished the sheets, discuss
the similarities and differences among the art pieces. Use the probing questions
below to lead students towards the desired outcome responses.
these pieces from one time period, or multiple time periods? Multiple - Creatures
created by combining organisms have been depicted for thousands of years.
there one particular culture that made this art? No - Many cultures have produced
these types of images and art pieces.
is the one common thread which each picture seems to include? There are at
least 2 species combined into one new creature, many of them with human parts.
much of this do you think is true? Although each image is mythological, today,
scientists routinely combine DNA of organisms for research.
human DNA ever be combined with animal DNA? Yes, and it has been done! The
NewsHour Question and Answer sheet activity will give you more details.
are the consequences of combining species? At one extreme, fears about this
technology include the existence of humans born without souls and human "farms"
where people are born for spare parts. Other people feel that this is unfair to
animals and that the consequences, although perhaps not as extreme as human "farms",
are as yet unknown and could potentially be dangerous.
are the benefits of combining DNA? Transplant rejection could become a thing
of the past, diseases can be cured or treated better, and agricultural production
could greatly improve.
At this point, if you have not already done so, refer to the "Chimera - Fact
or Fantasy" box at the beginning of the lesson and define each of the types
of chimeras for students. They can record these in a journal or notebook.
II: Information on Chimeras and DNA Technology
NewsHour transcript: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/july-dec05/chimera_8-16.html.
Students should read the article and complete the student worksheet "What
do you know about chimeras?".
III: The Ethics of Human Chimeras
Distribute the "Bioethical Decision-making Model" to students. Using
the Internet, students must now complete the worksheet so that they can arrive
at ethical decisions based on the model. Explain to students that the topic is
"The Ethics of Human Chimeras."
Once students have completed the research model, take a survey of the room to
determine the consensus of conclusions reached. You may want to group students
together based on their decisions, or you can begin to categorize the options
on the board. If your class can narrow down the decisions based on similarities
into three to four different main categories, you can then split the class into
groups based on this structure.
Once the groups are together, they must work collaboratively to present sample
legislation concerning their decision. They must gather facts from resources such
as the Internet, books and magazine articles. Use the student sheet "Proposed
Students will now have a class debate. You, as the teacher, are going to play
the role of policy-maker. If a group can convince you to vote for their legislation,
then they will win the debate.
IV: The National Academies
(Optional research project or homework)
Distribute, read and discuss the student sheet "A
Brief History of the National Academies."
Students can now begin to research other issues studied by the National Academies.
Assign 1 topic to each student for research on the Internet. Topics that are currently
being studied are located at http://www4.nationalacademies.org/cp.nsf/Projects+_by+_Subjects
Many of these issues can be applied to the "Bioethical research model."
1. Literature Connections - Use the following Web site http://www.online-literature.com/wellshg/doctormoreau/
to read about H.G. Well's "The Island of Dr. Moreau." It is a searchable
database of each chapter of the classic novel about a doctor who creates human-animal
Modern Culture Connections - Watch the movie "The Island of Dr. Moreau"
(1996) and discuss the methods of research used in the movie. Determine how much
of the movie is fact-based and how much is fantasy.
Technology Connections - Students can investigate the ideas of smart machines
by reading about the rat brain on a dish which controlled a flight simulator program
Students can then build their own circuits in cooperation with a technology teacher.
to National Standards:
K-12 Standards Addressed
Standard 5 : Knows a range of arts and communication
works from various historical and cultural periods
13 : Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors
that tend to prevent or lower its intensity
Standard 26 : Understands issues
regarding the proper scope and limits of rights and the relationships among personal,
political, and economic rights
Standard 1 : Understands
and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
Standard 2 : Understands
and applies basic principles of logic and reasoning
Standard 6 : Applies decision-making
Standard 3 : Understands the relationships
among science, technology, society, and the individual
4 : Understands the principles of heredity and related concepts
: Understands the nature of scientific knowledge
Standard 13 : Understands
the scientific enterprise
NewsHour Special Report: Chimeras:
Mythology Guide http://www.online-mythology.com/
National Geographic News http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/01/0125_050125_chimeras.html
The National Academies http://www.nationalacademies.org/
The Hastings Center for Bioethical Research http://www.thehastingscenter.org/
Access Excellence http://www.accessexcellence.org/RC/AB/IE/
Bowling Green University Heuristics http://www.cs.bgsu.edu/maner/heuristics/toc.htm
the Author Rachelle Kuznik is a high school earth and space science teacher
and writer. As a member of the Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers, Kuznik
was among the top 197 Educator Astronaut applicants in the country. She has written
for various agencies and programs and enjoys the idea of sharing her excitement
about teaching by writing curriculum materials. She has been nominated for a Distinguished
Teacher award, worked as an intern at NASA, and won a Teacher to Teacher award.
She has served as a leader by participating in committees dedicated to the improvement
find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman