Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Six of the 11 Rhesus Monkeys Successfully Implanted with Human Brain Genes Have Died

May 13, 2019 07:18 AM EDT

Laboratory Scene
(Photo : Pixabay on Pexels)

A month ago, scientists from the Chinese Kunming Institute of Zoology in China were successful in implanting MCPH1 or Microcephalin into the existing genes of 11 rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were reported to have improved brain activity have become more intelligent. The monkeys were noted to have improved short memory and quicker reaction times.

This time, grim news from this experiment has been reported. Six of the rhesus monkeys used for the research have died. 

In the said study, scientists have stated that the monkeys with the human brain development gene have shown delayed neuronal maturation, as observed in imaging methods. Slowed down neuronal maturation is a phenomenon that human infants undergo.

The scientists have also observed that the monkeys implanted with the human brain gene stayed in the childhood developmental phase for a longer period than other monkeys in the control group did.

However, only five of the 11 rhesus monkeys successfully implanted with the human brain gene have survived. This puts the experiment in a "preliminary" status. Scientists explained that the group of animals experimented on are too small as a sample size which would naturally yield results that are yet to be clarified.

The death of six of the 11 Rhesus monkeys has once again raised some familiar ethical questions that have already been raised at the beginning of the research.

This was not the first time that researchers have produced transgenic organisms. In 1974, Escherichia coli (E.coli) had already been implanted into Staphylococcus aureus genes, while in 2001, jellyfish genes have been implanted into a monkey, making it the first "transgenic" organism.

Even if some persons considered it unethical, for such scientific experiments, it has also been considered a commonplace for other species to be used in trials that deal with human genes.

Previous scientific experiments involving human genes have always been carried out using other species. For example, monkeys been used to study diseases and conditions such as autism. Also, there has been a countless number of mice that have been used with modified human cognition, which includes microcephalin alteration.

Even if these experiments were successful, animal experiments have always been condemned as unethical. Advocates have been raising the point that these experiments have been causing animals to suffer.

Martin Styner, a Scientist at the University of North Carolina stated that experiments of this sort are actually prohibited by law in most countries.

Styner had participated in the experiment on 11 rhesus monkeys and is now considering to have his name removed from the list of authors.

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