China has unveiled the world’s first living ‘chimeric’ monkey – an animal created in a lab using special cells – which has glowing yellow fingertips and fluorescent green eyes.
The bizarre-looking creature, a male long-tailed macaque, is the first ever primate to be created with cells from two embryos of the same species, which researchers fused together.
The team used cells from seven-day-old embryos and mixed them with a five-day-old embryo before implanting the combination into female macaques.
While most animals contain mixed cells from their parents, the chimeric monkey was born with several that are genetically distinct – holding distinct DNA from each biological parent, the two embryos.
The baby monkey’s body had many donor cells detected from both embryos in the brain, heart, kidney, liver, gastrointestinal tract, testes, and the cells that turn into sperm.
The team in China said the work has vast implications, such as allowing them to increase animal populations that are on the brink of extinction and learning more about IVF.
China announced the first kind of chimeric monkey birth Thursday after a green-eyed, yellow-finger-tip animal was born in a lab from stem cells taken from two embryo
One baby monkey was born alive and survived for 10 days.
Analysis showed this male newborn had donor stem cells in 26 different tissue types, such as brain, heart and liver, ranging from 21 percent to 92 percent.
Previous attempts showed that the live monkey, terminated shortly after birth, had donor cell contributions between 0.1 and 4.5 percent.
A genetic chimera is a single organism composed of cells with more than one distinct genotype. Pictured is a close-up of the monkey’s glowing yellow fingertips
The team used cells from seven-day embryos, mixed them with those from a five-day-old embryo and implanted the combination into female macaques, resulting in a glowing green-eyed infant with yellow fingertips
A miscarried fetus was also ‘substantially chimeric,’ with stem cell-derived cells observed in the brain, heart, kidney, liver, and parts of the digestive system.
But had lower levels of the mixed embryo cells.
While monkeys have previously been created in the lab using donor cells, the researchers said these creatures had a much lower contribution of cells from embryos ‘so you cannot call them chimeric animals.’
Professor Mu-Ming Poo, scientific director of the Institute of Neuroscience at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: ‘Just having several cells (that) are partially distributed all over the monkey body with no real formation or clear structures – you cannot say that is a chimera, strictly speaking.
‘So the difference here is that now we have a very high contribution level, with the donor cells forming a big part of the tissues (and) complex structures all over the monkey body.’
The researchers said that their work complied with the national ethical regulations in China.
They said that as of the following steps, they want to explore ‘mechanisms that underlie the survival of the embryos in the host animals.’
‘The health of the monkey is still a problem, Prof Poo said.
‘If we want to produce a monkey model, we have to have a better chimera that can live longer.’