Victoria Bell For Mailonline 8/1/2019
A Spanish scientist has grown the world’s first-ever human-monkey hybrid in a lab in China which was viable and could have been born — but the process was aborted.
Researchers formed the hybrid embryo by genetically modifying monkey embryos to deactivate genes that are essential for the formation of organs.
They then injected the embryo with human stem cells — which are capable of creating any type of tissue — into the embryo.
Although the breakthrough experiment is an important step towards using animals for human organ transplants, it had to take place in Chine to avoid ‘legal issues’.
The team have not yet published their findings, but reported the creation of the hybrid to El País.
The embryo was destroyed at 14 days of gestation — a point dubbed the ‘red line’ — meaning that the embryo could not develop a central nervous system.
Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte was also responsible for creating the first human pig hybrid in 2017.
The scientist said his team conducted ‘the first experiment of human and pig chimeras in the world,’ although to less success.
A genetic chimera, or chimerism, is a single organism composed of cells from different individuals.
‘The human cells did not take hold. We saw that they contributed very little [to the development of the embryo]: one human cell for ever 100,000 pig cells,’ said Professor Izpisua’s colleague, University of California veterinarian Pablo Ross.
The team then were able to create chimeras between more similar species, for instance the rat and the mouse, which is five times closer than humans and pigs.
Project collaborator Estrella Núñez hailed the experiment as ‘very promising’.
‘We are now trying not only to move forward and continue experimenting with human cells and rodent and pig cells, but also with non-human primates,’ said Professor Izpisua.
‘Our country is a pioneer and a world leader in these investigations,’ he added.
The team are now looking to continue experimenting with human, rodent and pig cells, as well as with non-human primates.
The scientists have also experimented with creating human birds with rats and mice, with the hope of developing transplantable hearts, eyes and pancreases.