Human cells grown in monkey embryos spark ethical debate

Human cells grown in monkey embryos spark ethical debate
Human cells were grown in an early monkey embryo. Source: WEIZHI JI/KUNMING UNIV OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
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Daily US Times: A study has confirmed that monkey embryos containing human cells have been made in a laboratory.

The study, by a US-Chinese team, has sparked fresh debate into the ethics of such experiments.

The scientists injected human stem cells into macaque embryos. Stem cells have the ability to develop into many different body tissues.

The developing embryos were studied for up to twenty days.

Other so-called mixed-species embryos, or chimeras, have been produced in the past, with human cells implanted into pig or sheep embryos.

The scientists were led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute in the United States, who, in 2017, helped make the first human-pig hybrid.

Their study, published in the journal Cell, could pave the way to help understand more about early human development, disease progression and ageing, as well as in addressing the severe shortage in transplantable organs, as he said.

“These chimeric approaches could be really very useful for advancing biomedical research not just at the very earliest stage of life, but also the latest stage of life.”

He maintained that the study had met the current ethical and legal guidelines.

He said: “Ultimately, we conduct these studies to understand and improve human health.”

However, some scientists have raised concerns about the experiment, arguing that while the embryos in this case were destroyed at 20 days, others could try to take the work further.

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