Stem cell scientists in China create a glowing green monkey

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Scientists in China have created a monkey chimera that had two sets of DNA, as well as glowing green fingertips and eyes. The bizarre creature lived for 10 days before it was euthanized due to respiratory failure and hypothermia.

The male long-tailed macaque was created by combining two genetically distinct fertilized eggs from the same species to create a single offspring. The resulting animal had elements of both DNA, with a range of between 21 and 92 per cent for the donated stem cells. Previous experiments featured contribution levels of between just 0.1 and 4.5 per cent.

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“This is a long-sought goal in the field,” reproductive engineer and senior author Zhen Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a press release about the experiment. “Specifically, this work could help us to generate more precise monkey models for studying neurological diseases as well as for other biomedicine studies.”

The scientists created several monkey stem cells lines, tested them to make sure they were pluripotent — that is, able to develop into every cell type in a living animal — and then labelled them with a green fluorescent protein so they would be able to determine which tissues had grown out of the stem cells in any animals that developed and survived. The stem cells were then injected into early monkey embryos, which were implanted into female macaques, resulting in 12 pregnancies and six live births.

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“In this study, we have provided strong evidence that naive pluripotent monkey stem cells possess the capability of differentiating in vivo into all the various tissues composing a monkey body,” said co-corresponding author Miguel Esteban. “This study deepens our understanding of the developmental potential of pluripotent stem cells in primate species.”

This is not the first time scientists have created a chimera — the original term refers to a creature from Greek mythology, with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the tail of a serpent — but it does mark the first live birth of a primate chimera created with stem cells, the researchers said.

The researchers published their findings in the magazine Cell.

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