Scientists Create First-Ever Human-Monkey Embryo Hybrids

A cloned human embryo.
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An international team of scientists from the United States and China has created embryos made from both human and monkey cells, NPR reported.

In a Thursday study published in Cell, the team reveals that the embryos were created as part of a broader effort for find new methods of obtaining organ transplants.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a co-author of the study and a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California, noted that organ transplantation is one of the most significant problems in modern medicine.

The Study Has Raised Concerns

Despite the importance of organ transplants, the controversial nature of the study has raised concerns.

Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University's Baker Institute, questioned the need for combining monkey and human embryos.

"I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we're just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do."

Notably, this form of research sparks raises many concerns in the realm of ethics.

The Research Raises Many Ethical Questions

A scientist with embryonic stem cell cultures.
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The new research is likely to keep ethicists busy. According to NPR, ethicists are most concerned about whether the new research will pave the way for studies that try to create baby embryos using the same methods.

"Specifically, the critics worry that human cells could become part of the developing brain of such an embryo — and of the brain of the resulting animal."

Specifically, Matthews asked whether the embryo would be regulated as a human, as an animal, or as something else.

Some Don't Believe The Study Is Ethically Concerning

Although there has been pushback against the study, others have suggested that there is no reason for concern.

Insoo Hyun, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and Harvard University, is one such person.

"I don't see this type of research being ethically problematic. It's aimed at lofty humanitarian goals."

Hyun contniued to note that thousands of Americans die every year in the line for an organ transplant and suggested that research into the field of finding new avenues for such transplants is crucial.

The Findings Will Likely Continue To Fuel Debate

As with other controversial scientific endeavors — like genetically edited babies, which has landed scientists in prison, per Science — the combination of human and animal embryos will likely continue to fuel debate.

Hank Greely, a Stanford University bioethicist, hopes that work in this field will spur a conversation on limits of science and the boundaries for scientists engaging in this kind of controversial research.

"I don't think we're on the edge of beyond the Planet of the Apes. I think rogue scientists are few and far between. But they're not zero."