Have scientists Brain Hacked Monkeys in China?
According to a recent study published in National Science Review, scientists from the Chinese Kunming Institute of Zoology have successfully implanted a human development gene into the rhesus monkeys.
Scientists inserted human versions of MCPH1, a gene that researchers believe plays a good role in the development of the human brain, into 11 rhesus monkeys. The scientists have also noticed that the monkeys implanted with the human brain gene stayed in the childhood developmental phase for a longer period than other monkeys in the control group did. They found the animals performed better in tests of short-term memory as well as reaction time compared to wild monkeys. The monkeys underwent memory tests requiring them to remember colours and shapes on a screen and were subjected to MRI scans. However, the monkeys did not grow bigger brains than the control group.
The scientists behind the new research say, genetically altered monkeys can advance our understanding of brain development, which could lead to new treatments for autism and other developmental disorders.
“Rhesus macaques are one of the best animal models for studying brain development and evolution and have the best translational value for improving human health,” Anthony Chan, a researcher at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Centre. But, he also added that scientists must tread carefully whenever they add human genes to animals, designing their experiments to keep suffering to a minimum.
According to Megan Dennis, a biochemist and geneticist at the University of California, “the insertion of a human gene probably wasn’t enough to create monkeys that think like humans.”
Larry Baum, a researcher at Hong Kong University’s Centre for Genomic Sciences, downplayed sci-fi comparisons. “The genome of rhesus monkeys differs from ours by a few percent. That’s millions of individual DNA bases differing between humans and monkeys,” he said.
Is it a Risky Experiment?
“The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take. It is troubling that the field is steamrolling along in this manner,” James Sikela, a geneticist working with primates at the University of Colorado.
Half of the monkeys died in the experiment!
Despite the successful implantation of the gene, only five of the 11 rhesus monkeys involved in the experiment survived. As a result, the scientists can, at best, describe their findings as “preliminary” — the group of animals that were experimented on clearly constitutes too small a sample size to make a clear and accurate conclusion. The death of six of the 11 Rhesus monkeys has once again raised some ethical questions that have already been raised at the beginning of the research.
This was not the first time that researchers have produced transgenic organisms. In 1974, Escherichia coli (E.coli) had already been implanted into Staphylococcus aureus genes, while in 2001, jellyfish genes were implanted into a monkey, making it the first “transgenic” organism.
Such Experiments are on-going.
This January, Chinese researchers unveiled five macaques cloned from a single animal that was genetically engineered to have a sleep disorder, which all developed signs of mental problems including depression, anxiety, and behaviours linked to schizophrenia.
Last 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.
This year, an international team of scientists working in China has created human-monkey embryos for the first time in history. Read more here – https://beautifulpeoplemagazine.com/2019/08/22/another-unethical-scientific-experiment-first-human-monkey-embryos-created-china/.
Do we need such experiments to save a human life?
These medical pressure is existing since a very long time, and I understand that people rush to get the first possible treatment to save them. This dilemma is nothing new. Why can’t we find other treatments to save an individual’s life? Instead of playing God with other people’s life, why can’t we find other ways? There is always another way. We just have to be willing to try to look for it. When it comes to gene editing, that stuff is scary and dangerous. We definitely need to exercise looking into all the available options and not to cross moral boundaries that could result in very horrible. There is a reason why morals exist. This type of research has implications both moral and physical, and they can definitely lead to some very dark roads.
Animal experiments such as these have long been condemned as ethically unacceptable, considering the suffering they cause animals. Most countries in the world apart from China, experiments of this sort are prohibited by law. China seems to be the seat for a crazy scientist to do whatever they want to do. We can see what China is doing or allowing to do will eventually result in a big mistake that might punish the whole human race for the rest of our lives. We really hope that people start taking actions against that ethically soulless experiments.
We need to understand that playing with God’s creation without his knowledge is asking for trouble. Science is a wonderful tool for helping us understand the stuff we don’t understand, but when we cross that method of knowledge, then we run the risk of getting things like nuclear weapons.
I’m ending this with a simple line, “We shouldn’t play God because we don’t know how.”