A new biomedical abbreviation debuted July 22, ACHM (for Animals Containing Human Material) in a report of the same name from the UK Academy of Medical Sciences. ACHM will soon replace, I hope, the phrase “humans and animals,” which implies to the taxonomically inclined that we are instead fungus, plant, or microbe. Even the editorial in Nature on the report notes “the distinction between humans and animals.”
Perhaps because I write college biology textbooks that treat Homo sapiens as any other animal species, I’ve long thought a new term necessary. “Non-human animal” is cumbersome. And so I was thrilled at the UK’s acknowledgement of our Kingdom membership, joining us to the others distinguished by our lack of cell walls. But I fear ACHM isn’t catchy enough, and may head straight into the abbreviation graveyard of RFLPs, SNPs, and iPS cells, none of which really caught on beyond the scientific community. Neither will ACHM work as an acronym; it sounds like a clearing of the throat.
Semantics aside, the report is important. It prepares the biomedical community for future use of animals in research that will increasingly include human material. Said Professor Martin Bobrow, chair of the working group, “Our report recommends … a national expert body, within the existing stringent system of animal research regulations, to provide specific advice on sensitive types of ACHM research.”
The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers graduate online masters in bioethics programs. For more information on the AMBI master of bioethics online program, please visit the AMBI site.