Another Incredibly Stupid, Horrible Idea: Chinese Scientists Create Pig-Monkey Chimeras

Monday, 09 December 2019 - 4:28PM
Genetic Engineering
Monday, 09 December 2019 - 4:28PM
Another Incredibly Stupid, Horrible Idea: Chinese Scientists Create Pig-Monkey Chimeras
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Lab Monkey/Public Domain
It should come as no surprise whatsoever that scientists from the country that brought you genetically-modified babies have, in their great wisdom and enduring altruism, successfully created pigs genetically engineered to carry a small number of cells from cynomolgus monkeys. The pigs, engineered by a team of scientists from Beijing's State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology and led by Dr. Tang Hai were brought to full term, but only survived a few days. "This is the first report of full-term pig-monkey chimeras," Hai told The New Scientist.  





The chimeras were created via IVF – thankfully – with cynomolgus monkey cells genetically modified to produce a fluorescent protein that would allow them to be tracked. Embryonic stem cells were then derived from the original cell batches and injected into pig embryos after fertilization. Of the 4000 embryos that were implanted, only ten piglets were born, two of which were chimeras, bearing monkey cells in multiple tissues, albeit in fairly low numbers. All of the piglets died within a week. Despite Hai's celebration of this as a success, others in the scientific community were less optimistic about his plans to go forward with experiments intended to increase the number of monkey cells in the piglets. "Given the extremely low chimeric efficiency and the deaths of all the animals, I actually see this as fairly discouraging," Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist at UC Davis told New Scientist. 


The intention, however, is not to create pig-monkey chimeras, but to eventually create animal-human chimeras that could be used to grow organs suitable for transplants. That experiment, believe it or not, has already taken place right here in the United States of America in 2017. In that case, however, the embryos – which only contained 1 human cell for every 100,000 pig cells – were terminated after a month due to ethical concerns that an animal brought to term would have a partially human brain. 






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