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.
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.’
In a new study, researchers generate human-monkey chimeric embryos that are able to develop for up to 20 days. Read more in @CellCellPress https://t.co/2sziQFn2mj#chimera #devbio#KunmingUniversity @salkinstitute pic.twitter.com/klR936o9A2
— Cell Press (@CellPressNews) April 15, 2021
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.’
A fruitful collaboration with @JCIB_Lab_Salk and @taotankm We found human extended pluripotent stem cells could contribute to chimera formation in monkey embryos cultured up to day 19-20 https://t.co/15uxI9EY96
— Jun Wu Lab (@leo_jwu) April 15, 2021
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?’