While modern science is developing fast and makes huge progress in a very short time, many people are confused and even worried about its growing power.
Last year, many were shocked to learn that a Spanish research team claims to have created the first human-monkey hybrid in the world! The Spanish newspaper El País was the first to report the story, in August 2019.
Such experiments aim at developing ways of growing human organs for transplant. Researchers have moved to China to avoid regulations against that sort of experimentation.
— World News Network (@worldnewsdotcom) August 3, 2019
Namely, they injected human stem cells capable of creating any type of tissue into a monkey embryo. However, Angel Raya, from the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Centre, spoke about the ethical concerns of the experiment.
One of the main concerns, according to Raya, is the possibility of stem cells somehow creating a conscious brain:
“What happens if the stem cells escape and form human neurons in the brain of the animal? Would it have consciousness? And what happens if these stem cells turn into sperm cells?”
Estrella Nunez, of Murcia Catholic University (UCAM), one of the researchers of the team, explained that they did everything needed to prevent such a possibility. They have implemented a mechanism that will force the cells to “self-destruct” in case any of the stem cells reach the brain.
She added that the results “ are very promising”, but she refused to speak more until the study finds a home in a prominent scientific journal.
She explained that the research was costly, and was mainly financed by the university:
“If we combine the human/pig, human/rat, and human/monkey research, it is many hundreds of thousands of euros.”.
Nunez added that they “ want is to make progress for the sake of people who have a disease”, and their ultimate goal is to “create a human organ that could be transplanted, but the path itself is almost more interesting for today’s scientists.”
The experiment was led by Juan Carlos Izpisua, a Spanish-born stem cell biologist at the Salk Institute in California, who has done breakthroughs in anti-aging research. Back in 2017, he created the first human-pig hybrid in the world.
Yet, when they attempted adding human cells to pig embryos, the human cells didn’t take hold effectively, so this time, they believed that the experiment could succeed, because monkeys are genetically closer to humans.
“We are now trying not only to move forward and continue experimenting with human cells and rodent and pig cells but also with non-human primates. Our country is a pioneer and a world leader in these investigations.”
However, raising a creature only for the purposes of organ harvesting is something advocates of animal and human rights oppose. If these organisms can feel pain and think, it would be cruel and inhumane to be subjected to such a harsh life.
Researchers stated that the experiment was ended before the embryo was old enough to be born. Yet, as the cells survived and formed a hybrid embryo, in case they were implanted in a female monkey, they could have been born.
Pablo Ross, a veterinary researcher at the University of California, Davis, who previously worked with Salk on the pig-human chimeras, maintains that injecting human cells into monkey embryos could address “questions of evolutionary distance and interspecies barriers.”