Introducing the first human-monkey cross

Monkey business: The cells in the macaque embryos lasted for 20 days. © Getty

Is it wrong to meddle with nature? A new breakthrough might make it possible to grow human organs inside animals. It could save lives, but many people say it is unnatural – and even cruel.

What’s happening

Before long, there could be a new species on Earth: a human-monkey.

That’s what a group of scientists from the US and China are hoping. They have just created an embryo unlike any before. It is made up of both monkey and human cells.

Find out more

A living thing with two sets of DNA is called a chimera. It is named after an Ancient Greek creature that was a mixture between a lion, a goat and a snake.

Scientists make them by taking cells from humans called stem cells. They place these into an embryo from another animal.

Juan Carlos Izpisua is the leader of this project. He has also experimented with human-pigs and human-mice. His tests on monkeys have been most successful: the cells stay alive and grow together.

The embryos in this experiment were destroyed before they were born. But the team hopes to bring some to life soon. Once born, they could grow human organs for transplants. And they could teach us more about diseases like Alzheimer's.

Is it wrong to meddle with nature?

Some say…

Of course it is. Nature has evolved in a certain way. If we change that, who knows what could happen? Besides, the animals may be able to feel pain and suffer. Humans do not have the right to create animals for selfish reasons. There are other ways to help ill people.

Others think…

No! Humans meddle with nature all the time! Breeding dogs and cats is meddling. And even cooking is about changing natural things for our own enjoyment! Besides, these human-animal mixes could help save millions of lives. It is worth making them to help other humans.

You Decide

  1. Is it always wrong to experiment on animals?

Activities

  1. Create an animal and draw a picture of it – show it to your class and tell them which animals you combined to make it.

Some People Say...

“How dare you sport thus with life?”

The Creature, in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What do you think?

Word Watch

Embryo
An unborn human or animal in the earliest stages of growth. At its earliest point, an embryo is just a group of cells.
Cells
Building blocks that make up every living thing. There are different types of cells, each with different properties.
Chimera
The word now describes any creature with parts taken from various animals.
Stem cells
These are very flexible cells. They can develop into different types of cells to do different jobs in the body. They are used by doctors for blood transplants.
Destroyed
The cells stayed alive for 20 days. It is not clear if it would be legal to let a human-monkey be born.

Subjects

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