SCIENTISTS claim to have created the world’s first human-monkey hybrid in China in an incredible embryo-splicing trial.
Experts hope the breakthrough will eventually allow medics to harvest an endless supply of human organs for lifesaving transplants.
The team, led by Spanish scientist Juan Carlos Izpisua, say they successfully combined human stem cells with a monkey embryo.
They claim that the “chimpmanzee” embryo was viable – and could have been born had the process not been aborted.
Izpisua has history in the field – having led the research that created the world’s first human-pig hybrid in 2017.
But critics have warned breakthroughs in human-animal hybrids – known as chimeras – present “disturbing” ethical dilemmas.
The scientists came from the California-based Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Murcia Catholic University in Spain.
They injected human stem cells into a monkey embryo that had been genetically modified to deactivate the genes that control organ growth.
Stem cells are the body’s master cells with the potential to become any type of tissue or bone.
The team say the cells survived and formed a hybrid embryo – which if implanted in a female monkey could have been born.
But the experiment was ended before the embryo could grow further.
A “red-line” of 14 days gestation was set to prevent the formation of a central nervous system.
And the team claim to have created mechanisms to avoid the creation of brain cells – dispelling fears the hybrids could have some human consciousness.
But they still had to carry out their experiment in China due to “legal issues” surrounding the use of embryos.
The team have not officially published details of their discovery – but have reported their claims to Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Project collaborator Estrella Núñez said: “The results are very promising.”
She added: “We are doing the experiments with monkeys in China because, in principle, they cannot be done [in Spain].
“What we want is to make progress for the sake of people who have a disease.
“The ultimate goal would be to create a human organ that could be transplanted, but the path itself is almost more interesting for today’s scientists.”
But Dr Angel Raya, director of the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Center, warned such experiments present “ethical barriers”.
He said: “What happens if the stem cells escape and form human neurons in the brain of the animal? Would it have consciousness?
“And what happens if these stem cells turn into sperm cells?”
Izpisua led the team that used similar techniques to create the world’s first human-pig hybrid embryo in 2017.
In that experiment, the human cells started developing into muscle and organs.
The research, published in the journal Cell, took four years and 1,500 pig embryos were needed.
Professor Izpisua said at the time: “The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that.
“This is an important first step.”
There are 6,500 people in the UK waiting for a transplant – including 150 children.
Every year, around 500 Brits die while waiting for an organ.
But Philip Lymbery, from Compassion in World Farming, opposed the research.
He said: “Growing human organs in animals is not the solution, and could open up a whole new source of animal suffering.”
And Dr David King, Director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “I find these experiments disturbing.”
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