Chinese scientists have implanted human brain genes into that of monkeys, an experiment that seems to have made the most intelligent primates, according to a new study conducted by the Kunming Institute of Zoology in southwestern China.
The animals performed better on a short-term memory test and had shorter reaction times compared to normal monkeys, according to an article on research published by MIT Technology Review, the journal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The research aimed to examine the genetic basis of the human brain and the evolution of human cognition. The scientists implanted MCPH1, a gene that they believe can 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 researchers involved said it was the first time such an experiment was used to understand "the genetic basis of the origin of the human brain." The team used the delivery of lentivirus to generate the monkeys, a technique that exposed animal embryos to a virus carrying MCPH1, according to the 'MIT Technology Review'.
The researchers observed that, In addition to better short-term memory, primate brains also took longer to develop and they had a pattern of development similar to that of human brains.
The study has generated a very negative reaction from Western scientists, who have criticized what they consider an unethical experiment. "You think about Planet of the Apes immediately," says Jacqueline Glover, bioethicist at the University of Colorado. "Humanizing them is causing harm. Where would they live and what would they do? Do not create a being that can not have a meaningful life in any context. "
As early as January 2019, researchers from China cloned a group of five primate monkeys genetically edited, in an experiment designed to help researchers understand human diseases. At that time, specialists in bioethics criticized the approach, since some of the monkeys and cloned embryos only survived for a few days.
Research with primates is strictly controlled, which means that such techniques are unlikely to be widely applied. Another Chinese scientist - Professor He Jiankui - faces global condemnation after telling the world that he had created the first genetically edited babies in November 2018.