First “Human-Monkey Embryo” Sparks Ethical Debate

What is the News?

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the US have for the first time created the first monkey embryo containing human cells. This particular field of research is called “chimera research”.

About the Chimera Research:
  • Research: Scientists have injected human stem cells(cells that have the ability to develop into many different body tissues) into the macaque monkey embryos. This integration created a chimeric tool.
    • Chimeras are organisms that comprise the cells of two distinct species. In this case, it was humans and monkeys.
    • For instance, if this hybrid embryo is placed in the womb of a monkey, it could possibly grow into a new kind of animal (however this was not the aim of this study).
  • Outcome: This human-monkey chimeric embryo was monitored in the lab for 19 days, before being destroyed. Researchers found that the human stem cells survived and integrated with better relative efficiency than in the previous experiments.

Purpose of Chimera Research: Researchers believe that the ability to grow cells of two different species together helps scientists in research and Medicine such as:

  • Advancing current understanding about early human development,
  • Understanding disease onset and progression
  • Drug evaluation and
  • Also, it can address the critical need for organ transplantation.
Concerns Regarding Chimera Research:
  • Moral Dilemma: Humans are widely (but not universally) thought to have a higher moral status than other animals. But human-animal chimeras blur this line. These Chimeras are not fully human nor fully non-human.
  • Survival Issues: Some rare hybrid animals exist naturally probably as a result of unintentional cross-breeding between animals of different species.
    • However, generally different species don’t cross-breed. But if they do, their offspring don’t survive for long and are prone to infertility.
  • Issue of Infertility: Mules are an example of a hybrid animal that is the result of mating between a female horse and a male donkey.
    • Mules can live a long healthy life. But they are infertile which means that they cannot have offspring of their own.
  • Injustice Against Animals for Human Needs: Chimera research has the potential to worsen injustice against animals. This is because it is being done to meet human needs.

Source: Indian Express

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