email - September 2004

Chimp Blood Donors

Jeneve wrote:

Subject: chimp blood?
From: Jeneve
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004 16:05:55 -0700 (PDT)


Is this true? Can we take a blood transfusion from chimpanzees? It seems hard enough to find people who match with each other???



The web site she referenced said,

DNA comparison between chimps and humans show that Chimpanzees differ from humans in just 1% of the DNA sequences. We can take blood transfusions from a Chimpanzee - if the blood type matches.

Animal Planet is running a program on the great apes hosted by Jane Godall [sic], the world renowed [sic] primatalogist [sic]. The program is currently aired in US. Check the Discovery India site or the channel for show times in India.

In the show people were asked if they would take a blood transfusion from a chimpanzee. Of the people asked 24% said they would. One of the most charming answer came from a young girl who said, "I will take the blood transfusion from a chimpanzee if I do not grow hair" !

We suggested that Jeneve ask her family doctor, since a doctor would be more qualified to answer than we are. She wrote back saying that she didn’t want to ask her doctor.

We think that if chimps could be blood donors, then some enterprising individuals would rent office buildings near hospitals, fill them with cages of chimpanzees, and supply blood to hospitals as needed. The blood would always be fresh and readily available.

If someone actually did that, the Red Cross would probably raise concerns about safety. In response, the chimp farmers would no doubt produce evidence that the chimps had been tested for AIDS and hepatitis, and had been quarantined so that the blood was perfectly safe. Animal rights groups would probably protest, and neighbors might raise zoning and sanitation issues. The chimp farmers would have to deal with these very public objections. It would be too controversial for us not to know about it, if true.

But just to make sure, I had to take the advice we gave Jeneve, and asked a local physician. He explained to me (at very, very great length) why it is ridiculous to think that we can get blood transfusions from chimpanzees.

It is basically a tissue rejection problem.  When transplanting organs, the body recognizes that the newly transplanted cells are different than its own, and therefore the immune system tries to attack the "invading" cells.  Doctors administer drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the new cells. Chimp blood cells are sufficiently different that it would require lots of anti-rejection drugs to keep them from being attacked.

Anti-rejection drugs work by defeating the body's natural immune system. Of course, the body’s natural immune system is there for a very good reason. It keeps foreign cells from invading your body and making you sick. Knocking out the body’s natural defenses makes you vulnerable to any disease that might happen to come along. You don't want to take those drugs if you don't have to!

We doubt that Animal Planet actually showed a program that said people can get blood transfusions from chimpanzees. We doubt that 24% of people surveyed would take a transfusion from a chimpanzee. We doubt the story about the little girl afraid she would grow hair. We suspect the entire web site is a hoax.

Even though we think the web site is a hoax, it is still significant because it shows how the pseudo-science of evolution makes such a ridiculous story plausible to so many people. Furthermore, we expect that some people will start citing the “fact” that humans can take blood transfusions from chimpanzees as proof of evolution.

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