Scientists Add Human Genes to Monkeys Brains in New Study

first_img 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 purpose.Led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China, the research was conducted to explore the evolutionary process that led to human intelligence, including brain size and cognitive skills, CNN reported. In a study, which was published in National Science Review on March 27, scientists described the research as “the first attempt to experimentally interrogate the genetic basis of human brain origin using a transgenic monkey model.”Chinese researchers add human #brain-related gene to monkey #genome in controversial experiment— Medical Xpress (@medical_xpress) April 11, 2019“Brain size and cognitive skills are the most dramatically changed traits in humans during evolution, and yet the genetic mechanisms underlying these human-specific changes remain elusive,” scientists said in the study.In the study, scientists took human copies of the MCPH1 gene, which might be important to human brain development, and introduced it into monkeys’ embryos through a virus that carried this type of gene, Vox noted.A Chinese researcher who implanted human genes into the brains of monkeys is defending his experiment— CNN (@CNN) April 12, 2019Out of the 11 transgenic macaque monkeys that were generated, six unfortunately died. The five surviving monkeys were put through many tests, including MRI brain scans and memory tests. Results showed that the remaining group didn’t have bigger brains than the control group of macaques, however, they performed better on short-term memory tasks. Each monkey’s brain also developed over an extended period of time, which was similar to the development of human brains.Even though this experiment involved a small sample size, scientists hope to further explore how humans were able to develop their unique type of intelligence, and engage in different behaviors, thinking, and activities that other primates aren’t able to do.This type of experiment has also raised some ethical concerns, however, Su Bing, one of the lead researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Kunming Institute of Zoology, told CNN that the experiment was reviewed by the school’s ethics board and it followed international animal rights standards, as well as Chinese and international best scientific practices.“In the long run, such basic research will also provide valuable information for the analysis of the etiology and treatment of human brain diseases (such as autism) caused by abnormal brain development,” Su wrote in an email to CNN.A rhesus macaque monkey in Thailand. (Photo Credit: Westend61 / Christian Zappel/Getty Images)Despite Bing defending the experiment, some scientists aren’t on board with it. Barbara J. King, author of How Animals Grieve and an emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, told Vox via email that Su’s experiment was “an ethical nightmare.”“More of the genetically altered monkeys — six — died than lived, so right off the bat we see that the procedure is often lethal,” King wrote. “Regarding the five survivors, what kind of lives will they have going forward, altered as they are and confined to an experimental laboratory?”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. What right do we have to subject these primates to grotesque procedures of this sort? The costs are terribly high and the benefits to humanity approach zero; there’s growing recognition that animal models simply don’t work well to study complex human processes.”This isn’t the first gene-editing experiment that has generated some negative feedback: In January, a Chinese scientist claimed his lab made the world’s first genetically edited babies and he was investigated by the Guangdong Province Task Force in China for reportedly conducting the experiment “in pursuit of personal fame and gain.”More on Bub’s Genetics Reveal Key Clues About Her Unique Cat FeaturesThese Genetically-Modified Chickens Can Lay Eggs With Cancer-Killing DrugsChina: Scientist Gene-Edited Babies for ‘Personal Fame’ Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferWatch: Deep-Sea Octopus ‘Billows Like a Circus Tent’ Stay on targetlast_img