Originally published 15 Apr 21
Monkey embryos containing human cells have been produced in a laboratory, a study has confirmed, spurring fresh debate into the ethics of such experiments.
The embryos are known as chimeras, organisms whose cells come from two or more “individuals”, and in this case, different species: a long-tailed macaque and a human.
In recent years researchers have produced pig embryos and sheep embryos that contain human cells – research they say is important as it could one day allow them to grow human organs inside other animals, increasing the number of organs available for transplant.
Now scientists have confirmed they have produced macaque embryos that contain human cells, revealing the cells could survive and even multiply.
In addition, the researchers, led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US, said the results offer new insight into communications pathways between cells of different species: work that could help them with their efforts to make chimeras with species that are less closely related to our own.
“These results may help to better understand early human development and primate evolution and develop effective strategies to improve human chimerism in evolutionarily distant species,” the authors wrote.
The study confirms rumours reported in the Spanish newspaper El País in 2019 that a team of researchers led by Belmonte had produced monkey-human chimeras. The word chimera comes from a beast in Greek mythology that was said to be part lion, part goat and part snake.