On November 1, a pro-Kremlin edition News Front published an article titled “Scientists Ready to Merge a Human with an Animal”. The article mentions that Japan issued a permit to conduct an experiment that aims to merge a human with an animal to get a hybrid species. The article also mentions that a professor at the University of Tokyo, Hiromitsu Nakauchi, “was given green light to combine a human embryo with the one from an animal”. The professor himself is cited at the end of the article, where he speaks of a simplified procedure of transplanting organs to the patients, thanks to the experiment.
The article comes with a photo showing a scientist working in a lab and an animated creature.
News Front: “Scientists are ready to combine a human and an animal. In the spring of 2019, Japan abolished a ban on experiments that aim to create a hybrid of an animal and a human… Based on the results of the studies, the scientist aims to get a permit to grow a pig hybrid for 70 days. To repeat Hiromitsu Nakauchi, his experiment aims to grow human organs in an animal’s body with the aim of transplanting them to humans with damaged organs. Patients will not have to wait for donors anymore.”
The news disseminated by News Front is based on a real experiment that is covered manipulatively: 1. Title of the article is inaccurate; 2. Attached photo shows an image from a video game and a stock photo of a scientist working in a lab; 3. Actually, the experiment does not aim to merge a human with an animal, but rather to insert human cells into an animal embryo. The Japanese scientists aim to solve the problem of organ transplantation and waiting times of organ donors.
Official page of the Stanford University confirms that in July 2019, Hiromitsu Nakauchi, according to the new regulations introduced by the Government of Japan, was given the permit to conduct the experiment. However, it does not envisage combining humans with animals, but rather growing human organs in the organism of an animal. Experts believe that using a precise term is important, as the experiment does not deal with a human-animal hybrid. Dr.M. William Lensch from Harvard Medical School explained that in a human-animal hybrid, half the DNA in every cell would be human and the other half would be animal. In contrast, in this case we are dealing a mixture of human cells and animal cells.
The experiment actually envisages inserting human cells (so-called iPS cells) into an animal embryo that would subsequently participate in the formation of a new organ. The need for experiment arose due to the shortage of organ donors. Therefore, the author of the experiment, Hiromitsu Nakauchi aims to solve the transplantation and organ donor shortage problem, not to create a hybrid. This experiment does not have anything to do with the human-animal merging or the creation of a hybrid embryo.
According to Hiromitsu Nakauchi, the experiment came with ethical and technical difficulties, but they have already been accounted for and the accent is now made on growing pancreas. The experiment will see the iPS cells inserted into rats and mice embryos and their subsequent transplantation to a surrogate animal’s womb.
In December 2019, the experiment underwent changes and a pig was added as a surrogate animal. Moreover, it became known that actual application of the results, if successful, of the experiment and their introduction to the medical practice would require at least ten years.
With the aim of dramatizing the story, the article by News Front comes with a photo showing a scientist working in a lab and an amorphous creature. In fact, the given photo does not have anything in common with the Japanese professor’s experiment. An analogous photo was attached to the articles in Russian media about the alleged experiments on the human-animal hybrid: kievsmi.net, tsargrad.tv, sozidatel.org, rostov.tsargrad.tv;
The original photo is a stock photo that is often used in various articles on the Internet related to science.
The articles by News Front and the Russian media outlets added the animated creature to the stock photo. This creature is called Marauder and features in a video game Resistance 2. It is a sort of a fire-breathing monster, chimera, that fights tyrannosaurus rex and titans with its physical abilities in the game.
Dissemination on social media
The article by News Front has been shared via social media by a user Beka Kvitsiani, who is also publishing his own articles on News Front and is an active supporter of the Georgian March. He published the article on the alleged human-animal hybrid in the following groups: წინ საქარათველო უკეთესი მომავლისაკენ !!! (Forward to a bright future, Georgia !!!), Info Rustavi ინფო რუსთავი , ბიძინა ივანიშვილი - დადებითი და უარყოფითი (Bidzina Ivanishvili – positive and negative). Bidzina Ivanishvili - positive a, რუსთავი 21 👁️ RUSTAVI 21, ანტილიბერალური სივრცე (Anti-liberal space). პოსტს ყველაზე მეტი გამოხმაურება მოჰყვა ჯგუფში კოტე ჩიკვილაძის და გულბაათ რცხილაძის თანამოაზრეების ჯგუფი: Россия и Грузия(Group of those who agree with Kote Chikviladze and Gulbaat Rtskhiladze: Russia and Georgia), where it has so far accumulated 25 shares.
Similar manipulation in other pro-Kremlin media outlets
It is noteworthy that the similar news has already been disseminated in the Georgian media. In 2016, Myth Detector wrote about the claims by Asaval-Dasavali and Tsargrad TV about American research institutes allegedly demanding permission to carry out experiments on merging humans with animals. In fact, the National Institutes of Health of the United States was asking for governmental funding to transplant human stem cells to the animal embryo at the gastrulation stage.
By Gvantsa Devidze
The article uses data by CrowdTangle, a Facebook search tool