To provide insights into the evolution of human intelligence, Chinese scientists have implanted human brain genes into monkeys.
The researchers used MCPH1, a gene in humans that scientists believe plays a crucial role in the development of the human brain, and implanted them into the monkey’s brains.
The monkeys underwent a series of tests, including memory tests that required them to remember colors and shapes on a screen, and then they were later on subjected to an MRI scan.
Like those of humans, a monkey’s brain also develops longer. However, a monkey’s brain does not grow bigger than the control group.
Only five of the monkeys survived the testing stage, which fuelled medical ethical debates and have drawn ethical concerns after the study has been compared to the dystopian sci-fi film, “Planet of the Apes.”
“You just go to the ‘Planet of the Apes’ immediately in the popular imagination,” Jacqueline Glover, a University of Colorado bioethicist, told MIT Technology Review. “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.”
Chinese researchers worked with American researchers from the University of North Carolina and conducted the experiments at the Kunming Institute of Zoology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Last month, the study had been published in National Science Review, which is a Beijing-based journal.
“Our findings demonstrated that transgenic nonhuman primates (excluding ape species) have the potential to provide important – and potentially unique – insights into basic questions of what actually makes human unique,” the authors wrote about their study.
Larry Baum, a researcher at Hong Kong University’s Centre for Genomic Sciences, said the study have supported the theory that “slower maturity of brain cells might be a factor in improving intelligence during human evolution,” and said that it is up to the people to decide whether there is actually anything to worry about the study.
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