Published: Wed, December 11, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Chinese Scientists Create Monkeys with Human Brain Genes

Chinese Scientists Create Monkeys with Human Brain Genes

And past year, Chinese researcher He Jiankui shocked the scientific community after revealing that he had successfully gene-edited twin girls born in November to prevent them from contracting HIV.

Brain imaging and tissue section analysis shows altered patterns of neuron differentiation and delayed maturation of the neural system similar to developmental delay neoteny in humans, which is the retention of juvenile features into adulthood.

Members of the scientific community are divided over a recent experiment that involved implanting human genes into monkeys' brains, even though a Chinese researcher is defending the experiment's goal. A total of 11 transgenic macaque monkey embryos were generated, out of which only five survived.

But if we start to create monkeys that become more capable of understanding the situation inside which they're trapped - if they become more human - at what point does this stop being ethically questionable and start being unacceptable?

Other scientists regarded Su's latest experiment as reckless, as they questioned the ethics of genetically modifying primates.

The experimentation has not been well received, however, by the scientific community.

"Genetic engineering is absolutely unethical Frankenscience that serves only to increase animal suffering".

The research, undertaken by multiple universities and led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology in southwestern China, was meant to shed more light on the evolutionary process which led to human intelligence. Some were born only to be killed and dissected. Animals deserve to be respected and left in their natural habitats, not bred in laboratories, experimented on, and treated like disposable objects.

Nevertheless, the researchers involved in the brain modification study intend to continue their work and may begin experimenting with different human brain genes in the future.

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Chinese scientists are trying to unlock the secrets behind human intelligence.

Monkeys have all of the morally relevant traits that we have "that would make it wrong to do this kind of random, "gee, let's see what happens" research on humans", Meynell said - research, of course, that's now been done in China with the birth of genetically modified twin girls.

As part of the process to discover the similarities and differences between monkeys, Su introduced monkey embryos with a virus carrying the human version of microcephalin. But, the monkey did not possess bigger brains than the control group.

All of the monkeys have anywhere between two and nine copies of the human gene in their bodies.

"You just go to the Planet of the Apes immediately in the popular imagination", said Jacqueline Glover, of the University of Colorado.

As MIT Technology Review reports, the Chinese research team focused on a gene called MCPH1 which, when damaged, produces babies with smaller brains than is typical.

She added, "In the wild, macaques live in matrilines, centered around groups of related females with close social ties; they explore their world with intelligence and curiosity. Do not create a being that can't have a meaningful life in any context".

"Monkeys are highly sentient individuals, capable of experiencing suffering and distress. They will also be questioning whether there are any limits on what someone, somewhere will be prepared to do to animals in the name of science".

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