The first IGEP-RM journal club of the fall 2016 semester was a success! In the midst of delicious Lebanese food at Belkoom Authentic Lebanese Restaurant, the students and various faculty members took part in a discussion regarding the NIH’s moratorium on funding for human-animal chimera models.
New students to the program, Yeonwoo Lebovitz and Sabah Rezvani, were thrust into the spotlight and have been tasked with running the journal clubs this semester. The focus of this specific journal club was the NIH’s request for public comment regarding the potential lifting of the moratorium on funding for human-animal chimera models. Before the September 6th deadline, the NIH encouraged anyone to submit comments regarding their feelings about a potential lifting of the moratorium or any comments about chimeric research in general. As can be expected, there were comments from every angle and the IGEP-RM group wanted to make their voice heard as well.
The journal club began with a brief background on chimeric research and the NIH’s moratorium by Sabah, followed by Dr. Will Eyestone sharing some fascinating research that has been done in the field. This led right into an in-depth discussion between the students and various faculty members regarding the moratorium and the field of chimeric research as a whole. Throughout the discussion, Dr. Michelle Theus was kind enough to consolidate the thoughts on the white board (a snap shot of which is shown below). The group heavily debated the moral/ethical concerns that typically arise regarding chimeric research (i.e., the potential for human pluripotent stem cells to migrate the brains of animals and allow the development of conscious thought, or the potential ability of human-animal chimeras to create human germ cells and therefore human embryos) against the vast benefits of the work (i.e., ability to grow “perfect” human organs in animals for transplant, development of better disease models, etc.). All of the comments were digested and presented in a fantastically written report by Yeonwoo on the behalf of the group (link below).
The journal clubs this semester will be differing from the traditional journal club approach. One of the overarching goals for the group this term is to establish a VT student initiative for the advancement of regenerative medicine (VT-SARM), culminating into the submission of a “State of RM at Virginia Tech” white paper to Dean DePauw.