Advances in genetic engineering are accelerating. The baby monkey that China created as a result of gene engineering has green eyes and fluorescent fingers.
In an experimental study, a team of Chinese researchers have enabled a monkey to give birth to a baby whose body is made up mostly of stem cells. The researchers say this is an important scientific milestone because it is the first time that a significant part of a monkey’s body has been built using these specialized, versatile cells.
First time in monkeys
Thanks to the stem cell line, which refers to a population of stem cells derived from a single source that can be cultured and propagated in the laboratory, this hybrid monkey is made up of cells from the same species but from two different monkey embryos. In the past, scientists have done this with rats and mice, but not with other animals, such as monkeys, until now.
“This research has practical implications not only for understanding pluripotency in other primates, including humans, but also for genetic engineering and species conservation. In particular, this work could help us create more precise monkey models for the study of neurological diseases as well as other biomedicine studies.”
The researchers obtained a ‘chimeric’ monkey by carefully growing and developing the baby monkey in the womb of the mother monkey. The scientists used genetic tests and other techniques to confirm that cells from the stem cells made up a significant part of the baby monkey’s body. However, for these stem cells to contribute to the development of baby monkeys, it is thought that a large number of cells must survive and grow from the very beginning.
Green fluorescent protein
After labeling the stem cell line with a green fluorescent protein, the scientists injected a specific group of these cells into very young monkey embryos, which were then transplanted into female monkeys. This resulted in 12 pregnancies and six live births. The study found that a monkey born alive and a fetus that died were a mixture of the injected stem cells and the monkey’s cells, meaning they were chimeric. The scientists checked this by looking at the green fluorescent protein tag and using genetic tests.
As seen in the photo above, green fluorescent signals can be seen in the fingertips and eyes of the 3-day-old baby monkey. They also found that between 21% and 92% of the injected stem cells were present in various organs of the live monkey. These stem cell-derived cells were also found in the testes and in the cells that eventually become sperm.
The researchers believe that factors such as the health of the mother monkey’s embryo and the characteristics of the stem cells may influence the success of this process. Studying individual cells at different stages of development could help them better understand this, the researchers suggest. Miguel Esteban, co-author of the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, said this discovery helps us better understand how stem cells work in monkeys and their potential to develop in primates, including humans.