It may sound like a subject of a SciFi movie, but this is real. For the first time in history, scientists have taken a big — and extremely controversial — leap by mixing human cells into monkey embryos in an attempt to make human-monkey hybrids.
MIT Technology Review reports that “Spanish-born biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, who operates a lab at the Salk Institute in California, has been working with monkey researchers in China to perform the disturbing research.” His objective — and that of his fellow scientists — is to create “human-animal chimeras.” They do this by adding human cells to monkey embryos.
Wondering why? Well, according to the scientists and TR, the idea behind the project is “to fashion animals that possess organs, like a kidney or a liver, made up entirely of human cells. Such animals could be used as sources of organs for transplantation.”
In other words, the chimeras are meant to function as organ-farms for human beings suffering from some kind of organ failure. Supposedly, that is. Technology Review spoke with Pablo Ross, who is a veterinary researcher at the University of California, Davis. According to him, the scientists’ explanation doesn’t make sense. “I always made the case that it doesn’t make sense to use a primate for that. Typically they are very small, and they take too long to develop,” he says.
Instead, he thinks it likely that Belmonte and his colleagues are actually trying to address “questions of evolutionary distance and interspecies barriers.” So, as he sees it, they’re likely trying to figure out how related human beings and monkeys truly are, and whether the two can mix.
Remember that time when conservatives warned that messing with human and animal embryos would eventually result in this? Oh no, we were told, we’re using the “slippery slope” argument, which isn’t valid in a rational debate! We were exaggerating. They would never — ever — create hybrids! Surely not!
Except that, you know, that is exactly what they’re doing now.