Technology

Eerie Planet of the Apes experiment sees scientists insert human genes in monkey brain


In an experiment that could foreshadow a real-life Planet of the Apes scenario, scientists successfully spliced human genes into a monkey’s fetus to substantially increase the size of the primate’s brain.


Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and Japan’s Central Institute for Experimental Animals introduced a human gene, ARHGAP11B, into the fetus of a common marmoset monkey, causing the enlargement of its brain’s neocortex.


The expansion of the human brain during evolution, specifically of the neocortex, is linked to our cognitive abilities such as reasoning and language.


The experiments evoke images of the Planet of the Apes films, where genetically modified primates wage a war on humanity.


“We found indeed that the neocortex of the common marmoset brain was enlarged and the brain surface folded,” said study author Michael Heide of the German-based institute.


The human neocortex, the evolutionarily youngest part of the cerebral cortex, is about three times bigger than that of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, and its folding into wrinkles increased during evolution to fit inside the restricted space of the skull.






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