The first ever monkey with fluorescent green fingertips was created using stem cells
Thanks to the strides we’ve made in genetic engineering, the chimera is no longer just a mythical fire-breathing monster with the body of a lion, the head of a goat, and the tail of a snake. Born in laboratories, these creatures blur the lines between species and challenge preconceptions about life and the natural order. Now, new research in China has shed light on these mysterious creatures.
Researchers recently generated a living chimeric monkey using embryonic stem cells (ESCs). MSCs are special cells that come from embryos, which are the first stages of development in a fertilized egg. These cells have the remarkable ability to transform into different types of cells in the body, serving as building blocks from which all other types of cells can develop.
The chimera monkey was created by combining stem cells from cynomolgus monkeys, also known as long-tailed macaques, with a genetically distinct embryo of the same species. The stem cells are labeled with a green fluorescent protein that glows under UV light, and this is often used in such work as a marker for gene expression. In this case, this allowed the researchers to determine whether the tissue had actually grown from the labeled stem cells.
Of the 12 pregnancies and six live births, only one monkey born alive and one aborted were considered chimeras. The creature that survived had fluorescent green fingertips and had a mark in other tissues throughout its body.
The researchers noted that the monkey was “largely chimeric,” suggesting a significant presence of cells originating from stem cells throughout its body. He lived for ten days before being killed.
Experts expressed optimism about the medical applications of this research, noting that this approach could be valuable in modeling neurodegenerative diseases. This breakthrough could open new horizons in understanding and treating conditions affecting the brain.
Beyond medical applications, the researchers highlighted the potential for chimeric monkeys to be used in species conservation efforts, especially for endangered primates. By achieving chimerism between primate species, there is the potential to contribute to the germline, providing a new approach to breeding animals of endangered species.
While chimeric mice and rats have been developed using ESCs, achieving chimerism in other species, especially non-human primates, has proven to be a difficult feat. This new study addresses this gap in scientific knowledge and opens new horizons for understanding pluripotency in primates and developing genetic engineering techniques.
Despite the amazing scientific leap, ethical considerations loom large in the creation and use of chimeric organisms. The researchers stressed their commitment to ethical behavior, stressing the responsibility of scientists to push the boundaries of knowledge while maintaining ethical standards. As we navigate these boundaries, combining scientific creativity with ethical responsibility remains critical to the future of genetic research.
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