Scientist injects human genes into monkey brains and makes them smarter, study finds

Chinese scientists have placed human genes in the brain of monkeys, an experiment that seems to have made primates smarter, according to a new study.

According to an article on research published in the journal, the animals had better results during a short-term memory test and had shorter reaction times than those of normal monkeys. National Science Journal, a newspaper based in Beijing.

The research was led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology, in southwest China, and aimed to examine the genetic basis of the human brain and the evolution of human cognition.

The researchers implanted MCPH1, a gene they thought could play an important role in the development of the human brain in the brains of 11 rhesus macaque monkeys.

In doing so, they created "transgenic monkeys". The scientists involved said that it was the first time that such an experiment was used to understand "the genetic basis of the origin of the human brain."

The team used lentivirus administration to generate monkeys, a technique that exposes animal embryos to a virus carrying MCPH1, according to the Review of MIT technology.

The researchers found that in addition to better short-term memory, primate brain development was also longer and that its developmental pattern was similar to that of the human brain.

The experiment provoked a strong reaction from Western scientists who criticized what they saw as an unethical experiment.

"You go immediately to the planet of apes in the popular imagination," said Jacqueline Glover, bioethicist at the University of Colorado.

"To humanize them is to cause harm. Where would they live and what would they do? Do not create a being who can not have a meaningful life, in no context. "

In January 2019, Chinese scientists cloned a group of five gene-modified macaque monkeys into an experiment designed to help researchers understand human diseases.

At the time, bioethicists had criticized this approach, with some monkeys and cloned embryos surviving for only a few days.

Primate research is tightly controlled, which means that it is unlikely that such techniques will be widely applied.

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Another Chinese researcher – the shameful professor He Jiankui – faced a worldwide conviction after telling the world that he had created the first genetically modified babies in November 2018.

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