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Why are Spanish scientists working to create a chimera of man and ape in China?

Why are Spanish scientists working to create a chimera of man and ape in China? 1

The Internet is full of rumors. So, according to the leaked studies of Spanish scientists, as reported by El Pais, the world’s first ape-human hybrid was created in a Chinese laboratory. 

Lead author Juan Carlos Ispisua previously worked on pig and human embryos. The proposed research goal is to use animals to create organs for human transplantation. In the course of the work, scientists injected human stem cells into the monkey embryo, allowing the cells to create any kind of tissue within the embryo. But for ethical reasons, the Spanish authorities stopped the experiment before the animals began to get pregnant. For this reason, Spanish scientists were forced to conduct an experiment in China, since the country has a large infrastructure in transgenic scientific field – in other words,

The research project was led by biologist Juan Carlos Ispisua, who also runs a laboratory at the Salk Institute of California. The stated aim of the work is to figure out how to use animals to create organs for human transplantation.

Creation of chimeras ape man

Despite the fact that the word “chimera” sounds intimidating, their creation is relatively simple and not even scary. Scientists inject human embryonic stem cells into another species of embryo that is only a few days old. Ispisua has experience with this kind of research, as he previously tried to add human cells to pig embryos. As his research with pigs ran into obstacles, he turned to experiments on primate embryos.

During the creation of chimeras, scientists genetically engineer certain types of animal cells to be disabled so that human stem cells have a better chance of anchoring. This kind of research is prohibited in a number of countries, but in China, for example, there are no such laws.

Why are Spanish scientists working to create a chimera of man and ape in China? 2
Japanese scientist plans to insert human cells into rat embryos (pictured)


It is important to understand that the human-ape hybrid in question has never been born. The fact is that mixed embryos do not progress after one to two weeks of growth in the laboratory. In a statement to El País, Estrella Nunez, biologist and administrator of the Catholic University of Murcia, said that mechanisms have been created to stop the progressive growth of the embryo.

The creation of the ape-man chimera, like other such experiments, has generated mixed reactions from the general public. For example, a number of ethical questions have been raised, such as the fear that human stem cells might somehow migrate into the brain of a monkey embryo. Dr. ngel Raya of the Barcelona Center for Regenerative Medicine told El Pais the following:

What happens if stem cells break out and form human neurons in the animal’s brain? Will he have consciousness? What happens if these stem cells turn into sperm?

However, Nunez notes that human cells self-destruct if they enter the brain. In addition, there is an established agreed date for the destruction of all such chimeras – 14 days of pregnancy. This is necessary so that the embryo does not have time to develop the central nervous system.

The consequences of such studies

Nunez described her findings as “very promising,” and said the study was pending peer review in a reputable scientific journal. At the moment, we are not aware of the full scope of the experiment, as the results have not yet been published.

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Notably, this news came after Japan became the first country to approve experiments with human and animal embryos. The Japanese government intends to allow stem cell researchers to conduct experiments with the same goal – one day, create organs that could be transplanted into humans.

Why are Spanish scientists working to create a chimera of man and ape in China? 3
Genetic engineering is developing rapidly, which sometimes causes alarm to the general public


There is still debate over whether this is the best method. Pablo Ross, a UC Davis veterinarian who has worked on experiments on pig and human chimeras, doesn’t believe it makes sense to grow human organs in monkey cells, for example. 

“I’ve always thought there was no point in using primates for this. They are usually very small and take too long to develop, ”he said in an interview with Big Think.

Ross believes that researchers may be looking for answers to more fundamental scientific questions, such as “evolutionary distance and interspecies barriers,” since the creation of chimeras causes disgust in both the public and ethicists. Whether the research proves to be valid or productive, it still – at first glance – continues to push the boundaries of biological and genetic research.

Although China has already made a mistake with the scientist He Juankui, who edited the genes of two babies, the country’s open laws generally allow for more daring experiments.

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