Chinese scientists have introduced genes of the human brain monkeys. Do you think they become smarter?

Human intelligence is one of the most important inventions of evolution. It is the result of the sprint, which began millions of years ago and has led to an increase in the brain and the emergence of new abilities. In the end, the people straightened her back, took the plow and created a civilization, and our cousins-the primates stayed in the trees. And now, scientists from South China reported that they had tried to reduce the evolutionary gap by creating several transgenic monkeys with extra copies of the human gene, presumably playing a role in the formation of human intelligence.

And no, they were not afraid to do it even after the situation with genetically modified twins.

What happens when you cross a monkey and man?

“It was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human consciousness using a model of transgenic monkeys,” says Bing su, a geneticist from the Institute of Kunming Zoology, who led this work.

According to the findings of the modified monkey did a better job with memory test involving coloured cards and dice, and their brains evolved — as have the children of the man. Differences in the size of the brain was not. However, these experiments are not enough to uncover the mysteries of the human mind or produce “planet of the apes”.

On the contrary, some Western scholars called the experiments reckless and said that doubt the ethics of creating genetically modified primates, due to the technological advantage of China in this field.

“The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes associated with the evolution of the brain, a very risky path,” says James shekel, a geneticist who is conducting a comparative study of primates in the University of Colorado. He was concerned that the experiment demonstrates a disregard for animals and will soon lead to more extreme modifications. “This is a classic slippery slope issue, and the more research is in this direction, the more urgent is the issue,” he says.

To explore primates in Europe and the United States becomes more difficult, but China is quite successful and quickly applies the latest tools of DNA to animals. This country created the first monkeys modified with CRISPR, and in January the Chinese Institute announced it had created half a dozen clones of monkeys with severe mental disorders.

“Worrisome developments in this field thus,” says shekel.

Soo, a researcher from the Kunming Institute of Zoology, specializiruetsya on finding signs of “Darwinian selection” — that is, genes that spread because of his success. His search covered such topics as the Himalayan adaptation of yaks to high altitudes and the evolution of the colors of human skin in response to cold winter.

However, the biggest mystery of all — the mind. We know that the brains of our human ancestors grew rapidly in size and power. To find the genes that caused the change, scientists have searched for differences between humans and chimps, whose genes are approximately 98% similar to ours. The goal, according to the Shekel that was to find the “jewels of our genome” — that is, DNA that makes us unique.

For example, one popular gene-candidate called the FOXP2 “language gene” has become known for its potential relationship to human speech. One of the English families whose members inherit an abnormal version of this gene, have problems with speech. Scientists from Tokyo and Berlin very soon brought this mutant gene in mice and listened to using ultrasonic microphones, changing their squeaks.

Su was fascinated by the other genome: MCPH1, or microcephalia. Moreover, the sequence of this gene differed from people to apes, children with damage microcephalin are born with tiny heads, that is, a communication with the brain. Together with his students, su used the calipers and wrenches to measure head 867 Chinese men and women and see can the results be explained by differences in the gene.

By 2010, however, su saw the chance to potentially conduct a more accurate experiment: adding the human gene microcephalin monkey. By the time China started to use the latest genetic tools at their large broods of monkeys that have made the country a Mecca for foreign scientists who needed a monkey for experiments.

To create a modified animals, su and staff members of the Laboratory of biomedical researches of primates in Yunnan subjected embryos of monkeys exposed to the virus with a human version of microcephalin. Turned 11 monkeys, 5 of which survived and provided the brains for the measurements. Each of these monkeys were from two to nine copies of the human gene in the body

Monkey su raised some unusual questions about animal rights. In 2010, a shekel, and three of his colleagues wrote an article “the Ethics of using transgenic primates, are not people for the study of what makes us human,” which concluded that the genes of the human brain should never implement monkeys like chimpanzees because they are too similar to us. Where they will live and what will they do? It is not necessary to create a being that will not receive a normal life in any context.”

In an e-mail, su said that I agree with the fact that monkeys are so close to people that their brains should not change. But the last common ancestor of monkeys and humans was 25 million years ago. For su this argument. “Although their genome is close to ours, there are also tens of millions of differences,” he says. He does not think that the monkeys will become something more than monkeys. “It is impossible to do this by the introduction of several genes of man.”

Smart monkey

According to their experiments, the Chinese team is really expected that their transgenic monkeys will have better intelligence and increased brain. That’s why they put creatures in machine MRI to measure white matter and led them through the computerized memory tests. According to their report, the transgenic monkeys has not been increased of the brain, but they did a better job with a short memory test, and the team noticed it.

Some scholars believe that the Chinese experiment did not give any new information. Among them, Martin Steiner, a scientist from the University of North Carolina and a specialist in MRI. He noted that in this study there were several aspects that were not allowed to implement it in the United States. Also, questions were raised about whether she cared for animals.

And after seeing Steiner says that he does not expect further research in the field of the evolution of transgenic monkeys. “I don’t think this is a good direction,” he says. “We created this animal, which differs from the others. When we conduct experiments, we should perfectly realize that trying to understand what that help society — but this is not the case.” One of the problems is that genetically modified monkeys in the road creation and maintenance. With only five modified apes, difficult to come to clear conclusions about whether or not they differ from normal monkeys, in terms of the size of the brain or memory skills. “They are trying to understand brain development. And I don’t think they will succeed.”

He himself su says it’s too early to talk about results. What do you think? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.

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