Friday, September 28, 2007

See-Through Frog

It seems a see-through frog has been created.

"You can see through the skin how organs grow, how cancer starts and develops," said the lead researcher Masayuki Sumida, professor at the Institute for Amphibian Biology of state-run Hiroshima University.

"You can watch organs of the same frog over its entire life as you don't have to dissect it. The researcher can also observe how toxins affect bones, livers and other organs at lower costs," he told AFP.

Dissections have become increasingly controversial in much of the world, particularly in schools where animal rights activists have pressed for humane alternatives such as using computer simulations.

It neatly skirts the moral implications of killing and cutting up a living creature simply so a 15 year old can see it's inner workings. Of course it completely glosses over the moral implications of designing a see-through creature simply so a 15 year old can see it's inner workings. Somehow the fact that it's still alive is a reason to pat ourselves on the back?

But the thing is, it turns out the frog is still dead.

The transparent frogs can also reproduce, with their offspring inheriting their parents' traits, but their grandchildren die shortly after birth.

It takes a couple of generations to realize that of course but death is death. I't's just been delayed so that the 15 year old kid doesn't have to ask himself any important questions at the moment he's looking at the frog.

I'm not quite sure where I stand on this. It is very neat. I guess I'm simply bothered that it seems to be implied that a question has been answered and we can feel good about the transparent frog. There's learning to be had in peeking at the frog inner working but there's real growth to be had in the ethical questions that still surround this issue, isn't there?

To rip the entrails out of a digital frog you can order a free CD here and the accompanying workbook here. Those resources come from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and they offer up some resources and food for thought regarding ethics and medicine.

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