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China has changed genes to create five crazy monkeys. Is this ethical?



Experts in medical ethics are divided on an experiment in which Chinese scientists have cloned ape monkeys to cause a mental illness in them.

The five cloned monkey embryos had been engineered to remove the BMAL1 gene, thereby showing the mammals symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia as a result of a circadian rhythm disorder, according to a study published on National Science Review was released on Thursday.

The findings of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science could help develop treatments for a range of human diseases, including sleep disorders, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, said team member Chang Hung-Chun.

The study drew attention to the use of cloned animals as well as the use of the gene editing tool CRISPR / Cas 9 by researchers.

This tool was also used by He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist Entist, who recently created the world's first genetically modified human babies as part of a controversial and unauthorized experiment.

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The study was approved and funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai Municipal Government.

Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Winchester in the UK, called it "disturbing news". ,

"Human mental illness is complex and even more difficult to predict than purely physical illness," he said. "The likely benefit of harming animals in this way is extremely small. However, there is no doubt that these animals will suffer – and probably very much. Primates are highly intelligent and social animals. It is not ethical to intentionally harm them, especially if the likelihood of any appreciable benefit to human patients is so low. This research is very irresponsible.

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China is the only country in the world that has the technology to clone captive-bred primates due to their neurological similarities with humans compared to other common laboratory animals, such as rodents. Primates as such may, due to scientific experimentation, to similar ones The way people experience pain and mental discomfort.

For decades, however, there have been ethical concerns about the use of a species with such remarkable similarities to humans when significant advances have been made in the animals. Neural imaging and other digital brain modeling techniques.

Large apes such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas are banned or severely restricted in research in Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and New Zealand, while Austria prohibits the use of all primates in laboratory experiments.

The United States is the world's largest user of laboratory chimpanzees for scientific research, although hundreds have retired in recent years after the National Institute of Health ended its biomedical research program for chimpanzees in 2015.

Chimpanzees are believed to have approximately 98 percent of human DNA.

In the UK alone, about 3,000 monkeys, such as macaques on marmosets, are used annually in medical research, especially for the development of vaccines and for the study of human nervous and reproductive systems, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Alan Bates, a Fellow at the Oxford Center for Animal Ethics, said it was "particularly controversial" to carry out research in the field of mental illness.

"There are significant differences between the two human and non-human primate cognitions that make any non-human model of a specifically human disease problematic," he said. "If the mental processes of monkeys left humans sufficiently close to provide a valid model, it would certainly be unethical to experiment with them.

"Cloned animals are inherently unfit for drug testing because they lack the genetic diversity that is transmitted in wild populations. In addition, it is difficult to see how captive-held animals kept in captivity can not display symptoms similar to mental illness. "

Other bioethics experts agreed that there were ethical issues regarding the use of animals that resemble humans in nature and any animal The experiment must continue to be tightly regulated.

"I think it is a very natural reaction to think that it is something quite perverted and terrible to deliberately introduce a disease into an animal to study it," said David Hunter, associate professor of medical ethics Flinders University in Australia.

"Overall, the damage to animals could be reduced by doing this kind of research, but is it the cost of us instrumentalizing the animals that caused damage in this way? "

Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at New York University, said the low success rates of cloning are due to the risk associated with an" ethical price "k the formation of malformed animals. He believed, however, that the use of animals for disease models was ultimately justified as a substitute for human experimentation.

"I think that if scientists are competent, it is ethical to make disease models to study human diseases. You can try experimenting with drugs and gene editing to fix diseases that you might not ethically try on humans first, "he said. "All this research must be done under the strict supervision of animal testing committees and with full transparency."

But Terry Kaan Sheung-hung, co-director of the Center for Medical Ethics at the University of Hong Kong Law said he has no objection to the experiment.

"The processing of genes is not so different from the older gene knockout technique, which has long been widely accepted in scientific circles. This new instance is a further development of the technique, "he said, adding that the gene knockout technique has been widely used in laboratory mice.

" The report says scientists have carefully conducted the animal welfare experiment The Regulations and the results are open and subject to peer review. "

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For Alexandre Erler, assistant professor at the Chinese Center for Bioethics, University of Hong Kong, who presented the findings a "positive development for biomedical research."

"While some animal applications, regrettable as it may be, are still unavoidable for further research, and monkeys provide optimal models for neurodegenerative disease research," said Erler

"The use of cloning could actually us help to reduce the total number of animals used for this research. This is a goal we must ethically pursue. "[19659032] window.fbAsyncInit = function () {
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