July 19, 2019 | 6:34 AM IST

Chinese researchers create smarter monkeys with human brains; Raise ethical doubts

Chinese scientists’ successful attempt to create smarter monkeys by with copies of human gene that plays major role in shaping human intelligence has raised ethical questions.

Geneticist at Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the experiment to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model inserted human versions of MCPH1, a gene that scientists believe plays a role in the development of the human brain, into 11 rhesus monkeys. The researchers said the findings reveal that the modified monkeys did well in the memory test involving colours, shapes, and block pictures and underwent MRI scans.

Though their brains also took longer to develop –just like that of human children, the monkeys did not grow bigger brains. However, the experiment has raised ethic debates.

To humanise 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," said Jacqueline Glover, a University of Colorado bioethicist. The experts said the study was intended to aid research into human psychological problems. It may be noted that Chinese researcher He Jiankui shocked the scientific community after revealing that he had successfully gene-edited twin girls born in November to prevent them from contracting HIV.

The experiment of genetically-modified monkeys has been published in Beijing Journal and National Science Review.

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