According to a new report, an international team of scientists working in China has created human-monkey embryos for the first time in history.
The Spanish biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, who operates a lab at the Salk Institute in California, has been working with monkey researchers in China to perform the disturbing research. The human – monkey embryos, in which human cells are added to the monkey embryos, were developed by scientists in China. They injected human stem cells into a monkey embryo that had been genetically modified to deactivate the genes that control organ growth. Stem cells are the body’s master cells with the potential to become any type of tissue or bone. The team says the cells survived and formed a hybrid embryo – which is implanted in a female monkey could have been born.
We already have human-duck, cat-humans, and centipede-human things but no such human-monkey hybrid has ever been born. The experiment involves a few days old embryo and human embryonic stem cells. Most research involving chimeras is aimed at developing techniques for growing human organs for transplantation.
In April this year, scientists in China published a study in which they claimed to have introduced human brain cells into monkeys, with the animals showing features including better short-term memory and shorter reaction times. These animals are not chimeras, but it is clear that new boundaries are being pushed.
End of the Experiment
The experiment was needed before the embryo could grow further. The researchers set a 14 days deadline to prevent the formation of a central nervous system. The team of researchers also claim to have created mechanisms to avoid the creation of brain cells – dispelling fears the hybrids could have some human consciousness.
Why in China?
Scientists in China have previously inspired international criticism for experiments involving.
In the United States, the National Institute of Health says federal funds can never be used to develop human-animal (monkey) embryos. This controversial research is also restricted in Spain and is only allowed for an investigation into deadly diseases. So, the scientists had to create their human monkey hybrid in China because there are no such rules in China.
Concerns Over this Experiment
Critics have already warned that the scientific development will create “disturbing” dilemmas over the ethics of human-animal hybrids. Developing such a human monkey hybrid is a profound leap in science and ethics. Creating a human embryo carries significant risks, including the risks of introducing unwanted mutations or yielding a baby whose body is composed of some edited and some unedited cells.
Many mainstream scientists think it is too unsafe to try, and some denounced the Chinese report as human experimentation. The experiment raises ethical issues as other scientists fear the stem cells would develop a human central nervous system in the animal.
Doctor Angel Raya, director of the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Centre, told El Pais: “What happens if the stem cells escape and form human neurons in the brain of the animal? Would it have consciousness? And what happens if these stem cells turn into sperm cells?”
A gene-editing scientist, Fyodor Urnov, reviewed the documents and said, “this effort aims to produce a human with altered genes.” Further, he added that “gene-editing—a powerful and useful technique was put to use in a setting where it was unnecessary.”
Dr. Douglas Munoz of Queen’s University said, “To be honest, it just really ethically scares me, for us to start to manipulate life functions in this kind of way without fully knowing how to turn it off or stop it. If something goes awry really scares me.”
A veterinary researcher Pablo Ross said, “I always made the case that it doesn’t make sense to use a primate for that. Typically they are tiny, and they take too long to develop.” Ross suspects the researchers have more basic scientific questions in mind. Injecting human cells into monkey embryos could address “questions of evolutionary distance and interspecies barriers.”
Such research can make the public and ethicists alike feel squeamish. We all believe in science and appreciate it but not more than God.
Are we ready for such research?
Do we really need such inventions?
Is science in the right direction?
We need to find the answer to all these questions before science goes beyond limits. What are we waiting for? It’s a high time!