London – In a move eerily reminiscent of Planet of the Apes, Chinese scientists have implanted human brain genes into monkeys.
Researchers inserted human versions of MCPH1, a gene that scientists believe plays a role in brain development, into 11 rhesus monkeys to provide insights into the unique evolution of human intelligence.
They found the monkeys’ brains – like those of humans – took longer to develop, and the animals performed better in tests of short-term memory as well as reaction time compared to wild monkeys.
The test, the latest in a series of biomedical experiments in China to have fuelled medical debates, has already drawn ethical concerns, and comparisons with the dystopian sci-fi Planet of the Apes, which saw the eventual downfall of mankind.
‘You just go to the Planet of the Apes immediately in the popular imagination,’ said Jacqueline Glover, from the University of Colorado. ‘To humanise them is to cause harm. Where would they live and what would they do? Do not create a being that can’t have a meaningful life in any context,’ she told MIT Technology Review.