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Chinese claim to have implanted human brain genes into monkeys to make them smarter

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The information was published in China in the National Science Review in Beijing on March 27 and revealed to the world by MIT Review today, April 10. Chinese geneticists are believed to have succeeded in introducing copies of a human gene into monkey brains that are believed to play a role in the formation of human intelligence. According to their results, the modified monkeys performed better in a memory test involving colours and images, and their brains also took longer to develop, like those of human children.
 
Contracting from their Western colleagues, Chinese geneticists seem to know no limits; neither moral, nor ethical, nor simple common sense or principle of responsibility. After announcing with great fanfare that they had given birth to genetically modified human babiesand then present monkeys perfectly clones Genetically, here they are on the front of the stage with a new experimentation whose recklessness leaves you stunned. It has to be said that when it comes to genetic manipulation and the use of techniques such as CRISPR, for example, Chinese scientists have become virtuosos and have taken all other world-class research teams by surprise.
This time, researchers from the Kunming Institute of Zoology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have attacked one of the most significant inventions of evolution: human intelligence.
 

Closing an evolving gap

Intelligence is the result of an incredible race that began millions of years ago to endow a small animal that fell from the trees with a brain larger than others and with abilities worthy of the most disruptive innovations. Eventually this little animal rose up, started to invent tools, the wheel, the plough and to create civilizations. Meanwhile, his primate cousins had remained in the trees. An evolutionary discrepancy between the genomes of monkeys and humans is due to just a few genes. Only two small percent genetic difference.
A gap that Chinese scientists wanted to close by creating several transgenic monkeys with a copy of a human gene that would be involved in human intelligence.
 
Of course, we don't know the intelligence gene and we don't even know if it exists. However, genome specialists have detected that some genes are more involved than others in human intelligence. If this is the big puzzle, we know for sure that the brains of our human ancestors grew rapidly in size and power. Our ancestor Lucy, the famous little Australopithecus that Yves Coppens discovered in Ethiopia, lived between four million and two and a half million years older than we do today. She was 1 meter tall and had a brain not much larger than that of a modern chimpanzee: 400 to 500 cm3. Homo habilis, who appeared later, knew how to cut stones and make rudimentary tools. His brain measured about 750 cm3. Erectus, which was discovered in the fossil records of Kenya, had a brain of almost 900 cm3 ; we know that he mastered fire and knew how to travel. The first Homo sapiens had a brain of about 1,100 cm3 which gradually increased to a volume of about 1,300 cm3.
 
The human brain is not only big in volume. It has three times as many nerve cells as that of the largest anthropomorph, the gorilla. If we carefully unfold the surface of the human brain bark, we can see that it averages more than 22,000 cm2, two-thirds of which is buried in the depths of the grooves. The gorilla's brain bark is only 5,500 cm2.
 

In search of the jewel gene

If the human brain has grown, it is because certain genes have played a major role in this process. Scientists dream of finding those few genes that made the difference. Where are those genes that have made humans unique in evolution?
One candidate gene has been popularized in the media; it is the FOXP2 gene, which the press quickly dubbed the "language gene". It is said to have a potential link to human speech. Geneticists have even managed to isolate and mutate it in laboratory mice. The experiment reported by the New York Times was to point ultra-sensitive microphones at the small animals to see if their squeaks had changed. The experiment was considered surprising and promising.
 
Bing Su, the Chinese geneticist involved in the research that has just been published in Beijing has been interested in another set of genes, linked to the brain size of primates. MCPH1 is a gene that is expressed during fetal brain development. Mutations in MCPH1 can lead to microcephaly, a developmental disorder characterized by a small brain.
Researchers at Su reported that they have successfully created eleven transgenic rhesus monkeys (eight first-generation and three second-generation) carrying human copies of the CMHP1.
 
According to thepost research, brain imaging and tissue section analysis have shown altered neuronal differentiation and delayed maturation of the neuronal system, similar to developmental delay (neotenia) in humans. Neoteny in humans is the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. A key difference between humans and non-human primates is that humans require much more time to shape their neurological networks during development; this is what makes them richer and more complex.
 
But this result is not the only one reported by researchers. They found that transgenic monkeys had better short-term memory and a shorter reaction time than wild rhesus monkeys in the control group. Did they become "smarter" as a result? The study does not give a definitive answer.
 
On the other hand, the reactions of Bing Su's fellow geneticists, particularly his American colleagues, suggest that the Chinese have put their finger on a real problem. As early as 2010, when Bing Su was doing his first experiments with the MCPH1 gene, University of Colorado geneticist James Sikela and three other doctors said in a post that " Human brain genes should never be added to monkeys, like chimpanzees, because they are too similar to us.. "Jacqueline Glover, a bioethicist who co-authored the article added: " Just go to the Planet of the Apes right away ".
According to the MIT reviewBing Su replied to his Western colleagues in an email agreeing that " apes are so close to humans that their brains shouldn't be changed. "
However, while Bing Su's experiment did not show a dramatic increase in brain size in the transgenic monkeys, the modified monkeys' success in memory or pattern recognition tests is "remarkable".
 
These criticisms do not prevent Bing Su from continuing his research. He is currently working on another gene, SRGAP2C, a DNA variant that originated about two million years ago, just as Australopithecus was being replaced in the savannah by the first humans. This gene has been referred to as the "switch of humanity"; it is believed to be the missing genetic link that would have had a likely role in the emergence of human intelligence.
 
Bing Su claims to have transplanted this gene into monkey brains. He says he's eagerly awaiting the first results. So are we,but as far as we're concerned,with great concern.
 
 
Sources: National Science Review, MIT Technology Review
 

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