First human-monkey chimera, the dawn of a new human competing species?

Spanish scientists create a human-monkey chimera in China. The team led by Juan Carlos Izpisúa injected stem cells into the animal embryos as part of research aimed at finding a way to grow organs for transplants. This has sounded alarm bells in many ethics groups around the world. Would we accidentally create a new species to compete with the human race? This gives a new meaning to the word racist. Perhaps the new word will be “specialist.” At least we could have better human race relations, as we would need to join races together and fight the new species for dominance on the Earth.

Chimera; the name comes from Greek mythology, which described monstrous creatures that were part dragon, part goat, part lion. Today’s chimeras are organisms that contain cells from two different species. To avoid ethical issues, the scientific community has traditionally set the “red line at 14 days” of gestation, which is not enough time for the embryo to develop a central nervous system. All chimera embryos are destroyed before that period expires. “In no case is the gestation brought to full term,” so they say. News Forecasters postulates that in some secret lab somewhere in China this may already have been violated. China has already confirmed scientist genetically engineered babies — and they say more are on the way. China is the destination location for this type of research, as the regulations are loose, though other countries (e.g. Japan) want in on the lucrative industry as well.

The team made up of members of the Salk Institute in the United States and the Murcia Catholic University (UCAM) in Spain, genetically modified monkey embryos to deactivate genes that are essential to the formation of organs. The scientists then injected human stem cells, which are capable of creating any type of tissue, into the embryo. The ultimate goal would be to create human organs that could be transplanted back into humans, maybe even improving on ones that we already have – kind of ghoulish huh?

The evolutionary distance between humans and monkeys spans 30-40 million years, so it is unclear if any human-like species could be developed. But scientists in China published a study in which they claimed to have introduced a human brain genes into monkeys, with the animals showing features including better short-term memory and shorter reaction times. The possibilities could be frighteningly endless. News Forecasters have come up with some obvious questions for the new chimera (and/or gene-edited species):

  • Could the new chimera, survive to the next generation, and to what state?
  • If chimeras can only survive with human help are we obligated to keep them alive?
  • Can the sum parts of any gene pool be greater than a human – at least from an intelligence perspective? Certainly from a physical perspective, combining the best attributes of the animal kingdom could be frighteningly interesting.
  • What if a chimera is human-like, but only has half the IQ of a human – if allowed to participate in society what does this mean for society and equality?

Not to get religious on the reader, but some believe there is a metaphysical aspect to the human brain … the “soul.” Often described in the Bible as the “Spirit in Man” which imparts the power of intellect at the breath of life. Creating a human-like chimera that has a “soul,” presents great challenges to the religious community, who already have a lot to answer for in terms of Darwin evolution. We might have to rewrite the Bible.

So the question remains is there something to fear here with chimeras? Unless you’re a bit squeamish from harvesting organs from animals, News Forecasters postulated that the answer is probably not. Most of these scientific and regulatory challenges (i.e Animal Rights groups) will be too difficult to hurdle at least, for now, perhaps in 50 years, this will be a different story.

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