China is known to conduct primate studies for many years now. Vox, an American news and opinion website, reported that the country has vast breeding facilities for monkeys. Every year, tens of thousands of these animals are exported to different countries.
China has also seen a miniature explosion of genetic engineering in monkeys. For instance, scientists in Kunming, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have created monkeys engineered to show symptoms of autism, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, and many more.
|Photo Credit: CNN|
Recently, the country conducted primate research that aimed to create smarter monkeys. A group of researchers at the Kunming Institute of Zoology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with US researchers at the University of North Carolina has successfully inserted human versions of the Microcephalin (MCPH1) gene into 11 rhesus monkeys. This gene is significant for the unique development of the human brain. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they saw on the news or read in history books, the test monkeys were given the MCPH1 gene as embryos via a virus.
|Photo Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images via Vox|
Of the 11 monkeys, only five survived, which then underwent memory tests that involved different colors and shapes presented to them on a screen. After the memory session, the survivors underwent MRI scans.
According to the researchers, this study is important in understanding the development of the human brain. They found out that just like humans, the engineered monkey brains took longer to develop. They also performed better in tests of reaction time and reaction memory than wild monkeys.
|Photo Credit: All That's Interesting|
However, the study has been ethically questioned by many experts. This is because monkeys were mostly subjected to fatal diseases from experimentations like this. Also, because researchers added human genes to these monkeys, which makes them more human. “To humanize them is to cause harm. Where would they live and what would they do? Do not create a being that can’t have a meaningful life in any context,” asserted University of Colorado bioethicist Jacqueline Glover.