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A computer scientist who is seen as a researcher at a Chinese medical experiment that saw monkey brains implanted with human genes to make them more human, has slammed the project as ethically unacceptable.
Dr. Martyn Styner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina, has distanced themselves from the experiment, after the group of Chinese scientists led was the victim of a medical-ethical debate.
Dr. Styner, the knowledge gained by tampering with the monkey brain in this way was not enough to go through with it.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BRAIN RESEARCH
The research, funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and led by the country’s Kunming Institute of Zoology, saw the establishment of 11 transgenic monkeys that the human copies of the MCPH1 gene (Microcephalin 1).
The group wanted to see how the gene affected monkey brain development.
It is the latest series of mutant monkeys to be born in the last few years as a result of the Chinese medical research.
MCPH1 is considered important for the development of the brain and evolution. It is also linked to the size of the brain.
Of the 11 monkeys, six survived the birth, and five lived to the study of the date of the publication in China’s National Science Review on 27 March.
According to the research, brain imaging, and tissue section analysis showed delayed maturation of the nervous system comparable with developmental delay experienced in the human being.
When the man can see this juvenile characteristics carry on into adulthood.
A difference between humans and monkeys is that people take much longer to form their brain, the neural-network (from childhood to adulthood). Slows the maturation of the brain can lead to an enhanced intelligence during human evolution.
The study also found the gene that changed monkeys displayed enhanced short-term memory, and a faster response time in comparison with monkeys, which is not with the gen.
The Chinese researchers have argued that the use of monkeys to make this discovery provided an important insight into what makes the man unique in terms of the development of the brain.
A mutant MCPH1 gene can lead to microcephaly in infants, which means that they can be born with unusually small heads due to an abnormal development of the brain.
SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO THESE MONKEYS
However, Dr. Styner, who was charged with the development of software tools for measuring brain MRI data for the survey, said he felt there are ethical implications of this research.
“My lab is generating software to help other labs with the running of their MRI studies, I am only loosely connected with the science of many studies. That certainly was the case here. One might even say that I was probably not in a co-author, given my lack of scientific involvement in this work. I had no input to the science in this project, except for the best process to their MRI data,” he told News Corp.
“The problem is not transgenic animals in general, or even transgenic monkeys. But it is the combination of all of these, that is to say, a transgenic monkey whose brain is amended by adding a human development of the brain gene with the aim to be more human like.
“There are ethically acceptable uses for transgenic animals (maybe even monkeys) that do not focus on the brain, but with a different purpose, for example, creating a potential organ donor for man. “That is a very different setting than what we have in this work and with a much less important ethical implications.”
He said in this study by changing the brain and the development of the brain, the researchers created a monkey, which was more man-if — neither human nor monkey.
“Maybe that transgenic monkeys would not fit with their family/colony more. Thus there is significant damage here to these monkeys, though I don’t think we actually learn a lot of this research or the avenue of the research.”
The researchers hope that with the help of monkeys to conduct further research on the degenerative and social disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS and autism as they claim that their findings can give important insight that leads to better understanding and treatment.
However, critics have argued that the implantation of monkeys with human genes is pushing the ethical limits of the use of animals for medical research.
But their first examination, compared with the sci-fi classic story Planet of the Apes, which he gene-edited monkeys go into battle with the humans for control.
The researchers conclude that assertion, saying monkeys are not used in their research, and never will be.
They argue that the rhesus monkeys used in experiments are far enough from humans genetically to be destroyed for this care. Monkeys are more closely related to humans genetically than rodents, but they are not as close as monkeys.
Dr. Styner told NBC News as a criticism of the study was for the first time, suggested that: “My personal opinion is now that, from an ethical point of view, such research should not happen again.”
CHINA STUDIES PUSH BOUNDARIES
The Chinese Institute of Neuroscience defended her experiments, saying cloned and gene-altered monkeys will lead to a reduction in the number of monkeys used in medical testing in the future.
They say that their experiments are important if we want to shed light on the human gene-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
In January Chinese research saw five monkeys cloned from an animal that was gene manipulated to have a sleep disorder.
The study, for the purpose of observing a mental illness, led to all five monkeys to the development of symptoms of depression, anxiety and behaviour associated with schizophrenia.
A year earlier, China announced it was successful in creating the world’s first cloned monkeys Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.
In 2016, China Institute of Neuroscience using transgenic monkeys to observe in the MECP2 gene, which is related to autism.
The monkeys with artificial human MECP2 gene were subjected to behavioral tests. Compared with monkeys that did not have the gene, the gene altered monkeys had autism-like behavior, metabolism problems, increased stress responses and reduced social skills.
China’s Institute of neuroscience said they followed strict international guidelines for animal research.
“The research will help to reduce the amount of macaque monkeys currently used in biomedical research all over the world. Without the interference of the genetic background, a much smaller number of cloned monkeys carry disease phenotypes may be sufficient for pre-clinical testing of the efficacy of therapies,” says neuroscientist Dr. Poo Mu-ming, who helped with the supervision on these two studies.
“Researchers used to use of more animals for the test of the drug for the accuracy, but now we can change the situation with the cloning technology,” he said.
At the end of last year, a Chinese researcher drew the condemnation of the science, colleagues, success gene-the change of two girls to prevent them from contracting HIV.
The Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into the ‘first world’ results and a halt to the investigation.
China is currently considering new laws that would see stricter rules and more control of the supervision on medical studies in the country.
It would also require that all future clinical trials must be approved by an administrative body, and ethical panel.
In Australia, there are strict guidelines for medical research, which is governed by the Australian Code for the Responsible conduct of Research.
This story was previously published in the news.com.au.