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Spanish scientists are making 'very promising' human-monkey chimeras in China
The first human-monkey hybrid has allegedly been created in a Chinese lab.
- Leaked research by Spanish scientists claims that they've created the world's first human-monkey chimera embryo.
- Lead researcher, Juan Carlos Izpisúa has previously worked on pig-human embryos.
- Their intended goal of the study is to use the animals to create organs for human transplant.
Scientists controversial claim that they've created the first human-animal hybrid in a Chinese laboratory has been leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais. A team of Spanish researchers operating in China, say they've created embryos that are part human — and part monkey.
Biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa, who also operates a lab at the Salk Institute of California, led the research project.
Their stated goal is to one day figure out how to use the animals to create organs for human transplants. They believed that creating a hybrid was an important first step. Human-animal "chimeras" would be utilized as sources for transplantation.
More specifically, the team injected human stem cells into a monkey embryo, giving the cells the capability to create any kind of tissue within the embryo. The test was halted, however, before any gestation period could commence, which kept them out of shakier ethical territory. Even still, the Spanish scientists were required to hold the experiment in China as it has a greater infrastructure in the transgenic scientific domain — that is to say, more lax laws.
Creating human-monkey chimeras
The creation of chimeras is relatively straightforward. Scientists inject human embryonic stem cells into an embryo of another species that's only a few days old.
Izpisúa has experience with this type of research, as he previously tried to add human cells into pig embryos. His research with pigs hit a roadblock, which is why he shifted toward experimenting on primate embryos.
Scientists genetically engineer certain types of animal cells to be disabled so that there is a greater chance for the human stem cells to take hold. This kind of research is not allowed in the United States, the National Institutes of Health states that federal funds cannot be used to create human-monkey chimera embryos. China, on the other hand, has no such law.
No such human-monkey hybrid has ever been born. The mixed embryos do not progress past one to two weeks of growth inside the lab. In a statement to El País, Estrella Núñez, biologist and administrator and Catholic University of Murcia, said that mechanisms have been put in place to halt the growth progress.
Some ethical concerns that were raised, such as the fear that human stem cells could somehow migrate into the monkey embryo brain.
Dr. Ángel Raya, of the Barcelona Regenerative Medicine Centre told El Pais: "What happens if the stem cells escape and form human neurons in the brain of the animal? Would it have consciousness? And what happens if these stem cells turn into sperm cells?"
Núñez remarked that the human cells would self destruct if they made their way to the brain.
Additionally, Raya said that, traditionally, scientists have set an agreed-upon destruction date of 14 days' gestation. That is, so the embryo does not have time to develop a human central nervous system.
Implications of the potential research
Izpisúa is optimistic about the yet to be published research "We are now trying not only to move forward and continue experimenting with human cells and rodent and pig cells, but also with non-human primates," he says. "Our country is a pioneer and a world leader in these investigations."
Núñez describes the results as "very promising," and stated that the research is pending peer review in a respected scientific journal. At this point, we won't know the full extent of the experiment until the research is published.
This news comes in the wake of Japan becoming the first country to approve of human-animal embryo experiments. The Japanese government intends on letting stem cell researchers conduct experiments with the same goal of one day creating organs that could be transplanted into humans.
There is still some debate as to whether this is the best method. Pablo Ross, a veterinary researcher at the University of California, Davis, who worked on pig-human chimera experiments, doesn't believe that it makes sense to grow human organs in monkey cells, for instance.
"I always made the case that it doesn't make sense to use a primate for that. Typically they are very small, and they take too long to develop," he says.
Ross thinks that the researchers may be after more fundamental scientific questions — the "questions of evolutionary distance and interspecies barriers."
Research like this can make the public and ethicists alike feel squeamish. Regardless of whether the research turns out to be valid or productive, it is regardless — on its face — still pushing the boundaries of biological and genetic inquiry.
Although China has had its own public relations misstep with scientist He Juankui, who edited the genes of two babies to be resistant to HIV, the country's open laws overall allow for more daring experimentation.
Transgenic biotechnology will be a revolutionary step in combating a wide range of diseases and disorders. Perhaps even one day it could usher in new expressions of human traits.
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."