11 rhesus monkeys were genetically engineered to have human brain genes: MEDICINE AND HEALTH: Science Times

Richelle H. ConcioApril 13, 2019 02:36 PM EDT

Rhesus monkey

(Photo: Thor Razan Ahmed)
Rhesus monkey

Genetic engineering, being a direct manipulation of the genes of a living organism, has advanced since it has faced many ethical problems.

Recently, a group of Chinese scientists has implanted genes from the human brain into 11 rhesus monkeys. The study, as the team explains, aims to provide a different perspective on the evolution of human intelligence.

In the study, human versions of the MCPH1 gene were used. This gene is supposedly in control when it comes to the development of the human brain.

In their study, it was found that the rhesus monkeys had taken a longer period in brain development, just like humans. It was also said that the subject monkeys had performed better tests than the unmodified subjects. The tests, which focus on short-term memory and reaction time, have resulted in five monkeys being well and obtaining an approval rating. The memory test involves remembering colors and shapes on a screen. Later, the subject monkeys received magnetic resonance imaging.

This test conducted by China has once again fueled debates on ethics as well as its previous biomedical experiment. Ethical concerns have increased due to comparisons with "The Planet of the Apes," a dystopian science fiction film.
The research was conducted by a team from the Kunming Institute of Zoology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They are working in collaboration with a team of researchers from the United States of the University of North Carolina.

Jacqueline Glover, a bioethicist at the University of Colorado, was among those who questioned the ethics of the experiment, even if the authors of the research have pointed out that the rhesus monkeys are far enough away to alleviate any ethical concerns. It is still standing that the subject monkeys are closer to the human being than to the rodents. To which, Glover pointed out that humanizing the subject monkeys will cause them harm, especially in regard to their room and features.

One of the researchers of Genomic Sciences of the University of Hong Kong, Larry Baum, explained that the differences between the genome of the rhesus monkeys and those of humans are only of some percentages, which are actually millions of bases of DNA that differ between humans and monkeys. This means that only one if 20,000 genes had been modified.

Baum said that through the study, they now have evidence to support the concept that a slower maturation of brain cells could be one of the factors that can be used to improve intelligence during the process of human evolution.

Earlier this year, another team of Chinese scientists had cloned a single macaque to create five more.

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