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Monkeys Given Human Brain Genes Seem to be Smarter

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Rhesus Macaque

Credit: J. M. Garg, wikipedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

by Sharon Kirkey, National Post

Their brains may not be bigger than normal, but monkeys created with human brain genes are exhibiting cognitive changes that suggest they might be smarter — and the experiments have ethicists shuddering.

In the wake of the genetically modified human babies scandal, Chinese scientists are drawing fresh condemnation from philosophers and ethicists, this time over the announcement they’ve created transgenic monkeys with elements of a human brain.

A team led by scientists at the Kunming Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences say they generated 11 transgenic rhesus monkeys carrying human copies of a gene known as MCPH1, which they describe as an important gene for brain development and brain evolution.

The gene is involved in a process known as neoteny — the delaying or slowing of the development of an organism. As a baby’s brain develops after birth, MCPH1 is expressed in abundance, but less so in nonhuman primates.

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© 2019 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc

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