Science & Technology
Human genes used to enhance monkey brains
April 16, 2019 | 20 comments
Let's hope the experiment isn't too effective. Image Credit: Pixabay / Gellinger
A controversial experiment in China has been likened to something out of a 'Planet of the Apes' movie.
The research, which was carried out through a collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Kunming Institute of Zoology and the University of North Carolina, involved inserting a specific gene involved in human brain development in to the genomes of 11 rhesus monkeys.
The idea was to see if this would improve the animals' memory and cognitive abilities.
Intriguingly, the research actually did appear to make the monkeys perform better on memory tests and reaction time tests when compared to animals that had not received the treatment.
That said however, the experiment, which saw only five of the monkeys live long enough to be tested, has been mired in controversy due to the use of live primates.
"The first ethical issue concerns whether this research is scientifically sound enough to justify the use of animals," said bioethicist Jacqueline Glover from the University of Colorado.
"The second issue concerns whether it is appropriate to use monkeys in particular. Can this research be done with alternatives that do not involve risks to nonhuman primates?"
"Groups are putting human genes in chimp brain oganoids as an alternative to using living primates for getting information about how human brain genes work."
As for the 'Planet of the Apes' comparisons - while the experiment did improve the cognitive capabilities of the monkeys, we're unlikely to be seeing an ape uprising anytime soon.
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