Scientists in China have created pig-monkey ‘chimeras’, looking like baby pigs, but with some primate cells, in a world first.
Two piglet chimeras were born alive, but died within days, New Scientist reports.
The research could lead to scientists being able to grow human organs inside animals for transplants, supporters say - known as xenogeneic organogenesis.
But the research is highly controversial, with scientists opting to use cells from crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) rather than humans for ethical reasons.
Researchers implanted thousands of pig embryos with monkey cells imbued with proteins which would glow under fluorescent lights.
Two chimeras were born, but died within a week.
In both chimeras, certain organs including the heart, liver, spleen, lung, and skin all had a small proportion of monkey cells.
Hai said that the deaths may be related to the IVF process, and hopes to produce embryos with more monkey cells in future.
Other scientists have argued that creating a half-human, half-chimp ‘humanzee’ is possible - and could be a good idea.
David Barash of the University of Washington said that creating a ‘humanzee’ could be possible using genetic engineering techniques.
Barash said in an essay that creating such a hybrid would remind humans that they’re not unique, and may teach our species respect for the animal kingdom.
Humans and chimps share 99% of their DNA, so some scientists have argued that a hybrid might be viable.
Dr Barash said, ‘Such an individual would not be an exact equal-parts-of-each combination, but would be neither human nor chimp: rather, something in between.’