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- John Loike wonders whether human-animal chimeras should be granted "personhood". Xenotransplantation is a combination of gene editing and stem-cell biology to create human-pig or human-sheep chimeras that can grow human organs (for example, kidneys) that can then transplanted into humans. Some day these methods can evolve to generate animals that incorporate human cells into their brains: would that animal now be human, at least to a degree? The question is: what is the percentage of human neurons that renders an animal a human being?
- The neuronal gene Arc seems to be important for long-term memory in the mammalian brain. Jason Shepherd at the University of Utah has discovered that the protein due to the expression of this gene self-assembles into a virus-like capsid that encapsulates RNA. Capsid is the protein shell of a virus. These capsids are released from the cell, delivering such RNA and proteins to neighboring cells (paper). One can speculate that cell-to-cell communication is, at least in some cases, a special case of viral infection. In fact, a genetic analysis of Arc shows that it has the same evolutionary ancestry as the HIV. One can speculate that some viruses evolved to become part of our brain functions, and that memory consolidation itself could be a form of "viral infection".
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