Chinese scientists create monkeys with human brain genes

14 April, 2019, 16:10 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Barbary-Macaque-monkey-600

He said: "The genome of rhesus monkeys differs from ours by a few percent". More importantly, the monkeys with human Microcephalin performed better in short-term memory tests and reaction time compared to wild monkeys.

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 worldwide animal rights standards, as well as Chinese and global best scientific practices.

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.

Only five monkeys made it to the last stages of the experiment.

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.

In doing this they created "transgenic monkeys". According to The Verge, some of the symptoms included anxiety, repetitive movements, and decreased social interaction.

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Another gene that may be soon be added inside the monkeys of genomes in subsequent experiments is FOXP2, which is widely believed to be integral to our language abilities.

While such scientific inquiries definitely have their merit, their ethics are controversial. 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 global best practices.

Other voices in the scientific community, however, disagree.

"This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model", said Bing Su, a geneticist at Kunming Institute of Zoology.

"The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take", according to James Sikela of the University of Colorado. The findings, they insist, "have the potential to provide important - and potentially unique - insights into basic questions of what actually makes humans unique". Critics argue that humans and macaque monkeys are different on many levels and that simply modifying a couple of genes offers little value.

"You just go to the Planet of the Apes immediately in the popular imagination", Jacqueline Glover, a bioethicist at the University of Colorado, said. In other words, "Planet of the Apes, The Revolution Begins". Even one of the collaborators - University of North Carolina computer scientist Martin Styner - told MIT Technology Review he considered removing his name from the paper, which he said was unable to find a publisher in the West.

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