Scientists based in China have successfully created a chimeric monkey.
How they did it:
A chimera is a human or an animal whose body is composed
of cells that are genetically distinct. For their study, the researchers used two sets of DNA: stem cells from a cynomolgus (crab-eating macaque) monkey and a genetically distinct four- to five-day-old embryo from the same species. After implanting embryos into 40 female macaques, they recorded 12 pregnancies and six live births.
The experiment resulted in the birth of the world’s first primate chimera. The baby monkey had bright green eyes and fingertips due to a fluorescent green protein introduced to highlight tissues grown from the stem cells. It lived for 10 days before it was euthanized due to respiratory failure and hypothermia.
What’s next: The researchers believe their findings could be beneficial for medical research and genetic engineering for the conservation of endangered species. They noted significant implications for stem cell research in primates, including humans, such as more precise monkey models for studying neurological diseases and advancing biomedicine studies.
“Monkey chimeras also have potential enormous value for species conservation if they could be achieved between two types of nonhuman primate species, one of which is endangered,” co-author Miguel Esteban, principal investigator at the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, told CNN. “If there is contribution of the donor cells from the endangered species to the germ line, one could envisage that through breeding animals of these species could be produced.”
Ethical concerns: While the use of monkeys in scientific research raises ethical concerns, the researchers claim to have followed Chinese laws and international guidelines governing the use of nonhuman primates. The study, however, has sparked debates about the ethics of creating chimeras beyond early embryonic stages and the welfare of the animals involved.
The study was published in the journal Cell