I guess you can call them “Franken-Swine.” Scientists in China have created the first living pig-monkey hybrids!
Officially known as “moinkeys,” the creatures are what is known as “chimeras,” an animal that possesses two kinds of DNA. While there are some naturally occurring chimeras, these have been produced by man, in the lab.
The groundbreaking experiment produced creatures with hearts, livers, spleens, lungs, and skin which contained both pig and primate cells.
The controversial experiment could pave the way for human organs grown by animals — which could be a boon for extending the lives of those waiting for organ transplants — or could lead to nightmarish “animal-human” hybrids, as in the horrifying H.G. Wells’ novel, “The Island of Doctor Moreau.”
How They Created the “Monkey-Pigs”
Stem cells from macaque monkeys were grown in a lab and then injected into pig embryos five days after fertilization. To put it more simply, the researchers added monkey cells to pig embryos, allowed mature female pigs to carry those embryos to term and then observed the resulting piglets.
Of more than 4,000 implanted in sows, ten piglets were born. But only two were chimeras and both died in a week. However the Chinese scientists still consider the procedure a success, in that they got any living offspring at all, and they believe that the problems were due to flaws in the IVF procedure, and not necessarily to the two types of DNA in one body.
Beijing-based Tang Hai, one of the lead scientists on the bizarre project said, “This is the first report of full-term pig-monkey chimeras.” The “moinkeys,” had organs with monkey cells in a very low ratio. A similar US experiment in 2017 used pig and human DNA. In that experiment, the embryos were developed for only a month, and then destroyed amid fears, that if allowed to come to full term, and the creatures lived, they could have a brain that may have been partly human!
University of California stem cell biologist Paul Knoepfler said of the Chinese experiment, “Given the extremely low chimeric efficiency and the deaths of all the animals, I see this as fairly discouraging.”
Nevertheless, the work continues, and while the deaths of the two piglets (and the low success rate in creating the chimeras) is a setback, this isn’t likely to be the last we hear of the project.
What do you think of the ethical ramifications of creating human/animal hybrids? Feel free to reply in the comments below!