Thursday, January 05, 2012

Cute Chimeric Monkeys!

Are these the cutest monkeys ever or what?

I've seen a few articles today saying that 'science' has now created 'genetically modified' monkeys, with the usual invective about playing god. Both the newspaper articles and the BBC World Service news I listened to were keen to mention the genetic tampering.  These two artificial chimeras are apparently the result of Frankenstein let loose. Except.

There isn't any genetic modification here. Many, many creatures are chimeras. Your mother is, for example. And so was mine. Whenever a human female gets pregnant, the fetal cells get into the mother's bloodstream and settle down into her cells, creating a body that's genetically more than one 'person'.. And that's true for any other placental mammal. Almost every adult female monkey - not to mention ape - is a chimera. It doesn't modify anyone's genetics, just complicates the immune response and of course any work PC Plod tries when trying to identify anyone.

These monkey chimeras are made by letting two embryos live side-by-side until they incorporate each other (as many do in real life).  I only hope they get chance to live as the cute chimeras, and don't get relegated to the experimental lab.

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