Scientists have confirmed that they successfully completed an experiment in China to make a monkey-human hybrid embryo. It was a collaboration between the Murcia Catholic University and Salk Institute of the United States. Juan Carlos Izpisua (Salk Institute) led the science team, including Spanish colleagues. After the experiment was complete and the embryo successfully created, the scientists then destroyed the embryo. The experiment has not been published in the scientific literature at this time. The ultimate dream is to use monkey-human creatures to develop organs for donations to humans. Scientists chose China as the location for their research due to many legal issues they would have faced in Western Nations.
From the Daily Mail:
“The team have not yet published their findings, but reported the creation of the hybrid to El País.
The embryo was destroyed at 14 days of gestation — a point dubbed the ‘red line’ — meaning that the embryo could not develop a central nervous system.
Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte was also responsible for creating the first human pig hybrid in 2017.
The scientist said his team conducted ‘the first experiment of human and pig chimeras in the world,’ although to less success.
A genetic chimera, or chimerism, is a single organism composed of cells from different individuals.”
There is a history of the scientific efforts to crossbreed humans in moneys. In the 1920’s a Soviet scientist named Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov attempted unsuccessfully to create a humanzee (human/chimpanzee hybrid). The experiment involved impregnating a chimpanzee female with human semen. Ivanov’s experiments were part of an initiative to create a Soviet super-soldier. There is another unsubstantiated report that scientists at the Anthropoid Breeding and Experiment Station in Orange Park, Florida, also in the 1920’s, successfully artificially inseminated a female chimp with human semen, which which was brought to full term and live birth. The US scientists quickly considered the moral and ethical implications and killed the creature. Another experiment was conducted in Maoist China in 1967. A female primate was impregnated with a human-hybrid creature. The animal was abandoned by scientists at the onset of the Cultural Revolution and was starved to death.
From the BBC article citing the initial research in 2017:
“For two decades, doctors have tried to find ways to harvest stem cells, which have the potential to form any kind of tissue, and nudge them to regrow new organs in a petri dish. The strategy would have enormous potential for replacing diseased organs.
“The only problem is that, although these are very similar to the cells in the embryo, they are not identical,” says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. So far, none have been fit for transplantation.
Izpisua Belmonte, and a handful of others like him, think the answer is lurking in the farmyard. The aim is to create chimera animals that can grow organs to order. “Embryogenesis happens every day and the embryo comes out perfect 99% of the time,” says Izpisua Belmonte. “We don’t know how to do this in vitro, but an animal does it very well, so why not let nature do the heavy lifting?”
Beyond transplantation, a human-animal chimera could also transform the way we hunt for drugs.
A particularly emotive concern is that the stem cells will reach the pig’s brain, creating an animal that shares some of our behaviours and abilities. “I do think that has to be something that is taken into account and discussed extensively,” says Rossant. After all, she found that her chimeras shared the temperaments of both species. It would be truly horrific to create a human mind trapped in an animal’s body, a nightmare fit for Wells.
The researchers point to some possible precautions. “By injecting the cells in a particular stage of embryo development, we might be able to avoid that happening,” says Izpisua Belmonte. Another option may be to program the stem cells with “suicide genes” that would cause them to self-destruct in certain conditions, to prevent them from embedding in neural tissue.”
This story is still developing…