Remember yesterday when we told you about how scientists had created the first human/monkey hybrid in a laboratory in China?
Well, an evolutionary psychologist claims that the practise of splicing together humans with our primate relations isn’t exactly something that’s never been attempted before.
In fact, George Gallup claims that he coined the term ‘humanzee’ to refer to the scientifically possible hybridisation of humans and chimpanzees, and that this process was attempted during the 20th century.
In case you were wondering what the potential scientific benefit of such a process would be, the scientists behind the latest effort – for which they have yet to release their findings – claim that it could have massive ramifications with regards to growing human organs for transplants inside monkeys in the future.
An embryo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gallup, who is known for developing the ‘self-recognition’ technique that proved that primates can identify themselves in the mirror and are therefore self-aware, said that a university professor of his once claimed that a humanzee was actually born at a facility in Florida back in the 1920s.
Gallup told the Sun: “One of the most interesting cases involved an attempt which was made back in the 1920s in what was the first primate research centre established in the US in Orange Park, Florida.
“They inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred but the pregnancy went full term and resulted in a live birth.
“But in the matter of days, or a few weeks, they began to consider the moral and ethical considerations and the infant was euthanised.”
Imagine a humanzee. Strange, right? Credit: PA
Yes, that’s right. He’s saying that they impregnated a monkey with human sperm, a hybrid child was born, and then killed by terrified scientists.
Gallup says that the professor who told him worked at the centre until it moved to another university in Atlanta, Georgia in 1930.
He continued: “He told me the rumour was true. And he was a credible scientist in his own right.”
As for this latest attempt, Spanish scientist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte says that their efforts were successful and the embryo could have been born if they hadn’t aborted it.
Professor Belmonte has also experimented with human/pig hybrids in the past, but with less success that he claims in this case.
Obviously, this sort of science has massive ethical questions hanging over it.
Professor Belmonte, right. Credit: PA
Ángel Raya, from the Centre of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, asked: “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?”
Let’s see how this thread develops over time. It’s certainly fascinating, if a little bit macabre.