In a controversial first, a team of researchers have been creating embryos that are part human and part monkey, reports the Spanish daily El País.
Daring biologist: Spanish-born biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, who operates a lab in California, has been working working with researchers in China to perform the research. Their objective is to create “human-animal chimeras,” in this case monkey embryos to which human cells are added.
Why, why? The idea behind the research is to fashion animals that possess organs made up entirely of human cells. Such animals could be used as sources of organs for transplantation.
Making chimeras: The technique involves injecting human embryonic stem cells into a days-old embryo of another species. The hope is that the human cells will grow along with the embryo, adding to it. It was tried previously, but didn’t work. Because monkeys are genetically closer to humans, it’s possible that such experiments could now succeed.
Controversial? Extremely. This procedure is banned in the US, but there is no such rule in China. So far, no part-human part-monkey has been born. Instead, the mixed embryos are only being allowed to develop for a week or two in the lab. Read more here.