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For the first time, a team of Chinese scientists made use of gene-editing techniques to make monkey brains more human-like. By the end, the monkeys, rhesus macaques, got smarter and had superior memories as compared to the unaltered monkeys.
Researchers edited the human version of a gene known as ‘MCPH1’ into the macaques. The gene made the monkeys’ brain develop along a more human-like timeline. The gene-hacked monkeys showed better reaction times and improved short-term memories in comparison to their unaltered peers, as per China Daily.
They said that a transgenic monkey model is practical and to a large extent can imitate the human-specific status.
According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop—as those of human children do. There wasn’t a difference in brain size.
“The use of transgenic monkeys to study human genes linked to brain evolution is a very risky road to take,” says James Sikela, a geneticist who carries out comparative studies among primates at the University of Colorado. He is concerned that the experiment shows disregard for the animals and will soon lead to more extreme modifications.