Chinese scientists are carrying out an experiment in which they implement a human gene called MCPH1 into the brains of monkeys. This genre is believed to play a factor in the human brain’s development.

This experiment was conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Kunming Institute of Zoology, with the assistance of scientists from the University of North Carolina, USA. “Our findings demonstrated that… non-human primates (excluding ape species) have the potential to provide important — and potentially unique — insights into basic questions of what actually makes human unique.”

Only 5 of the monkeys that received the treatment survived until the testing phase, however. They were put inside MRI machines to evaluate their white matter and given computerized memory tests that required them to remember the shapes and colors that appear on the screen.

The monkeys are given memory tests

Results showed that these monkeys had better reaction time and short-term memory than their non-gene-changed brethren. The human gene implemented didn’t enlarge their brains at all, though.

The authors of the study said that monkeys are genetically closer to humans than rats, mice, and other types of rodents that are often used in experiments, but are still distant enough that ethical is not a concern.

Chinese 5 Monkey human gene
Only 5 monkeys survived into the testing phase

There are still many who disagree with the experiment, though. Bioethicist Jacqueline Glover from the University of Colorado compared it to what happens in the movie "Planet of the Apes."

“To humanize 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,” he said.

Another geneticist from University of Colorado, James Sikela, said: “The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take. It is a classic slippery slope issue and one that we can expect to recur as this type of research is pursued.”

Planet Of The Apes
Planet of the Apes in real life?

Martin Styner, one of the scientists from University of North Carolina who are named among the co-authors of the Chinese report, shared that he had considered having his name removed from the paper. “There are a bunch of aspects of this study that you could not do in the US. It raised issues about the type of research and whether the animals were properly cared for,” he stated.

To rebut, the Chinese scientists call these criticism “hypocrisy”, saying that they are unfair judgment resulted from stereotypes. “We will continue our exploration,” they insisted.