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Scientists Successfully Create Embryos That Are Part Human, Part Monkey

by : Cameron Frew on : 15 Apr 2021 18:54
Scientists Successfully Create Embryos That Are Part Human, Part MonkeyWeizhi Ji/Kunming University of Science and Technology/PA Images

There’s been some monkey business going on in the lab, where scientists have created embryos that are part human, part primate. 

Two immediate thoughts: could this embryo spawn a Bigfoot, as the mysterious creature is often thought to be the missing stage of evolution between man and ape. Secondly, we all know how The Fly turns out: mixing things at a molecular-genetic level is cause for concern.

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While this nonsense isn’t being echoed by the experts, some are apprehensive over the results of a new study, which sought to ‘take advantage of a recently established prolonged embryo culture system that supports ex vivo primate (human and monkey) embryogenesis to the gastrulation stage.’

Published in the Cell journal, the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California, teamed up with a number of scientists from China and elsewhere to learn more about how human and animal cells communicate, injecting induced pluripotent stem cells from humans into macaque monkey embryos, which are genetically closer to us than sheep and pigs.

This experimentation with mixed-species embryos, known as chimeras, is hoped to ‘constitute a promising strategy for various regenerative medicine applications, including the generation of organs and tissues for transplantation.’

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The study notes: ‘These results may help to better understand early human development and primate evolution and develop strategies to improve human chimerism in evolutionarily distant species.’

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, co-author and professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the institute, told NPR: ‘This is one of the major problems in medicine – organ transplantation. The demand for that is much higher than the supply.’

He added: ‘This knowledge will allow us to go back now and try to re-engineer these pathways that are successful for allowing appropriate development of human cells in these other animals… our goal is not to generate any new organism, any monster. And we are not doing anything like that. We are trying to understand how cells from different organisms communicate with one another.’

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Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University’s Baker Institute, erred on the side of caution, telling the outlet: ‘I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.’

She added: ‘At what point are you taking something and using it for organs when it actually is starting to think, and have logic?’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Humans, Monkeys, Now, Science

Credits

Cell and 1 other
  1. Cell

    Chimeric contribution of human extended pluripotent stem cells to monkey embryos ex vivo

  2. NPR

    Scientists Create Early Embryos That Are Part Human, Part Monkey