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UC-San Diego biology course compares preborn children to cancer

UPDATED

‘Rapidly grows, invades, manipulates immunity’

How should you greet an expectant mother at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine? Tell her how sorry you are that a parasite is invading her body.

A slide from an upper-level biology class compares “fetuses and cancers,” according a photo shared by Dylan Griswold. The Stanford University medical student, who has been persecuted by his own school for his pro-life beliefs, said he received the photo from a friend in the UCSD biology class.

Using illustrations of fetuses and cancers, the slide calls the fetus a “legitimate parasite” who “rapidly grows, invades, manipulates immunity of mother, reshapes blood vessels.” The cancer does the same except it doesn’t have a “mother.”

Griswold said the course is called “biology of disease.” A spokesperson for the School of Medicine told The Fix Friday night it could not confirm the photo came from UCSD. “We’re looking into where the image may have originated,” she said in an email.

MORE: Science professor: Kill sperm, save the planet

Griswold identified the professor to The Fix in a Twitter message early Saturday. The professor has not responded to a Fix request for comment.

Griswold later obtained an email from the professor to the class and posted a portion of it. He provided the full email to The Fix.

Pascal Gagneux, a professor in the Department of Pathology, told the class the image had gone viral on “right wing ‘pro-life’ media” and he had received emails from journalists “across the US.”

“Most of you probably realize that my point was to show that mammals are especially prone to invasive cancers because mammals evolved invasive placentation,” he wrote. “My point was not to indoctrinate you with the notion that fetuses are cancers, as insinuated in the article.”

The slide is titled “parallels between fetuses and cancers” and calls the fetus a “parasite.” Parasites are not of the same species as the hosts they invade.

Gagneux continued:

As the late George Carlin used to say: ” Funny that sanctity-of-life people do not have bumper stickers that say:  I BRAKE FOR ADVANCED MELANOMA”.

You are welcome to take pictures of the slides in class, but please consider how some of these can be misunderstood out of context before posting them.

Should you disagree with something you see and hear, I would kindly ask that you please come and talk to me before you post material on social networks.

“Much appreciated,” he concluded. “Have a great weekend.”

Read Griswold’s Twitter thread.

UPDATE: The UCSD School of Medicine responded to a request for comment after this post was published. It has been added. Griswold also identified the professor, Pascal Gagneux, to The Fix so we could contact him for comment. Griswold later forwarded The Fix an email from Gagneux to his class regarding the publicity around his slide, which has been incorporated.

MORE: Stanford med student reported to Title IX for pro-life views

IMAGE: Eleonora os/Shutterstock

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