Science

Chinese scientists give monkeys human brain genes in 'morally risky' experiment

Chinese scientists give monkeys human brain genes in 'morally risky' experiment”

In the experiment, the Chinese scientists implanted human genes into the brains of rhesus monkey as part of a series of studies on the evolution of human intelligence.

These transgenic nonhuman primates may have potential to provide insight into basic questions of what makes humans unique, and in future studies maybe even provide insight into neurodegenerative and social behavior disorders hard to study using other means.

Their brains may not be bigger than normal, but monkeys created with human brain genes are exhibiting cognitive changes that suggest they might be smarter - and the experiments have ethicists shuddering.

Out of which only five survived the experiment, according to the study published in Beijing-based National Science Review.

The monkeys underwent memory tests requiring them to remember colours and shapes on a screen, and were subjected to MRI scans.

One of the lead researchers Su Bing, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Kunming Institute of Zoology, said the experiment has been reviewed by the university's ethics board and had followed not only Chinese and worldwide best scientific practices, but also global animal rights standards.

But scientists who have long debated the ethics of transgenic experiments on monkeys and apes have said the experiment leads researchers down a "risky road". Su Bing, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Kunming Institute of Zoology and lead researcher of the new study, says that the experiments were validated by the institution's ethics board and followed Chinese and worldwide best practices.

Jacqueline Glover, a bioethicist at the University of Colorado, invoking the sci-fi movie "Planet of the Apes", said humanizing animals is causing them harm and creating "a being that cannot have a meaningful life in any context".

She said to MIT Technology Review: "To humanise them is to cause harm". "Where would they live and what would they do?" Sikela is also concerned such experiments show disregard for the animals, and this will soon lead to more extreme modifications.

Larry Baum, a researcher at Hong Kong University's Centre for Genomic Sciences, was not convinced by this comparison though.

Su says he is making more monkeys and is testing a new brain evolution gene called SRGAP2C, which is a gene variant that arose about 2 million years ago when Australopithecus was ceding in the African savannah to human, this gene has been dubbed the humanity switch and missing genetic link because of its likely role in the emergence of human intelligence. "You can decide for yourself whether there is anything to worry about".

"Researchers edited the human version of a gene known as "MCPH1′ into the macaques". They were replicated from one single animal, which was genetically engineered to have sleep disorders.

This experiment did not turn out well as the animals suffered mental problems including depression, anxiety, and behaviors linked to schizophrenia.

According to the objective of the study, it was to aid in the research of human psychological issues.



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