If I have learned anything from Science Fiction movies this year, it is that movies are complete trash to predict behavior. After a million movies like Infection and Outbreak I thought we had a pretty good grasp on how people would react in the face of a pandemic, but these movies never accounted for half the population, just by saying ‘nah fam, I’m good.
So while I once thought I had a pretty good idea of how one Planet of the Apes experiment would result in me saving my predictions and instead reporting facts: scientists doubled the size of monkey brains by splicing human and monkey genes together, and the monkeys began to exhibit more behaviors characteristic of humans and not monkeys. This is according to a recent release of the experiment from German and Japanese researchers.
There is this human-specific gene called ‘ARHGAP11B’ that originated about 5 million years ago and led to today’s humans. This human-specific gene was thought to be the key to the expansion of the human neocortex, which is responsible for brain function such as language, perception, motor function and more. So what did they do? They figured out a way to place the gene on monkeys to see what would happen to their tags, to test if it would cause a rapid expansion of the neocortex … and it did.
Here is some close scientific language from the study with some analyzes below via Post:
They generated transgenic common marmosets, a New World monkey that expressed the human-specific gene ARHGAP11B, which they do not normally have, in the developing neocortex. Japan has similarly high ethical standards and rules regarding animal research and animal welfare as Germany has. The brains of 101-day-old common marmoset fetuses (50 days before the normal date of birth) were obtained in Japan and exported to MPI-CBG in Dresden for detailed analysis. Michael Heide explains: “We actually found that the neocortex in the common marmoset brain was enlarged and the brain surface folded. Its cortical plate was also thicker than normal. In addition, we could see increased numbers of basal radial glia ancestors in the outer subventricular zone and increased numbers of upper layer neurons, the type of neuron that increases in primate development. “The researchers now had functional evidence that ARHGAP11B causes an enlargement of the primate neocortex. (via)
If you were wondering what happened to these fetuses after their brands became superhuman? Well, they are gone. No one knew what would happen next, and due to ‘unpredictable circumstances’, they chose to discontinue the marmoset fetuses according to Post:
The neocortex is the newest part of the brain that has evolved – a sign that ARHGAP11B may have caused brain growth during human development, the researchers said.
In the end, researchers chose to discontinue the monkey fetuses due to “unpredictable consequences” according to the release.
The study – conducted by the Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Germany and the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Japan – is reminiscent of the 2011 flicker “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, in which a race of genetically modified primates turn against humans and take over The earth. (via NYP)
Researchers split human genes into monkey brains to make them bigger and smarter https://t.co/A3Hv1wLBdK pic.twitter.com/w8xj4y6KFt
– New York Post (@nypost) November 19, 2020
Now I will let my imagination run for a while and point out that these scientists have now determined that it is possible to split the human gene into monkeys, and now all that is required to start a war between humans and monkeys is a rich and bored billionaire to get together and hire his own research team to repeat this experiment.
Seriously, what prevents someone with unlimited resources and means from doing this alone behind closed doors? Nothing. Sure, there are rules against it, but has it stopped anyone from breaking the law before? No.
I give it less than 15 years until we find ourselves taking up arms against a race of superhuman monkeys.
This is completely independent, but a few years back we found an old family video when my grandmother was a small child. She used to tell me this story about how her parents had chimpanzees for pets when she was a little girl, and how, since she was the youngest of five children, she occasionally got her to have dinner with the chimpanzees who would steal her dresses and wear them for dinner. I always thought these were the stories of an old person making things and then we found that family video and unfortunately there she was like a little girl eating at the table with chimpanzees for pets. What a world.