Scientists are making smart monkeys.
No, I’m not joking. Scientists in southern China have developed a series of “transgenic macaque monkeys.” These monkeys were given extra copies of human brain development genes. And as a result, these monkeys performed better in short term and long term memory tests, showed improved reactions times, and their mental growth habits more similar to humans’.
The gene, MCPH1, was introduced to 11 monkey embryos using a process called lentivirus transfection. Imagine that the smart genes were hidden inside of a virus. So that when the virus tried to infect the host, it shot them up with the genes instead. Of the 11, five of the monkeys successfully took on the gene.
“This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model”
Lead geneticist Bing Su of the Kunming Institute of Zoology.
Not everyone is exactly excited about this project. Some folks, fellow scientists included, believe that experiments of this nature are dangerous in the long run. Some find the idea immoral, toying with a living creature. Others believe that such acts are against the creation of God and his plan. Some more sci-fi folks are pointing toward the classic media piece Planet of the Apes as a reason against it.
“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.”
University of Colorado geneticist James Sikela
Of course, there isn’t actually going to be an ape uprising. That’s just fiction. But I can’t deny that this is exactly how that film would have originated. Who knows, maybe in 100 years, we will have all sorts of human-level intelligent animals. I wonder what my dog would say.