CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited Monkeys with a wide range of circadian disorders are becoming an ethical minefield.
Recently, few Chinese scientists claimed that they had cloned five long-tail macaque gene-edited monkeys. They did so from CRISPR-Cas9 edited cells of an adult monkey. They have used CRISPR technique to knock out genes responsible for regulation of circadian rhythms.
Later, the monkeys are purposely subjected to various psychological disorders including; increased movement in the night, reduced sleep, signs of anxiety and depression, and schizophrenia-like behavior. The results are available in the video released along with the research.
“As the same disorder of circadian rhythms can result in many human disorders, like diabetic mellitus, sleep disorder, neurodegenerative disorders and cancer, this knock-out BMAL1 edited monkeys can be used to study the disease pathogenesis along with treatments,” said Hung-Chun Chang, senior author of the study.
We all are aware of the fact that the base of this research is to find the proper treatment for human’s benefits and for finding genes responsible for such disorders.
But such researches which involve animal trails usually incite many ethical issues, and bioethicists from all over the world arise questions.
“If I were on an ethics review committee, I would be very hesitant to approve because of the incredible amount of harm to the animals and I would expect the scientists who are proposing this research to have excellent response to tough questions about their methods and the expected benefits of their research” said bioethicist Carolyn Neuhaus.
On the other hand, Qiang Sun, a senior scientist involved in the research said;
“We believe that this research of cloning gene-edited monkeys could be used to generate a variety of monkey models for gene-based diseases, including many brain diseases, as well as immune and metabolic disorders and cancer.”
The research appears in the same institute, claimed last year that by using the method like somatic cell nuclear transfer they had cloned first two monkeys. It was the same procedure used for world first cloned sheep “Dolly” about 20 years ago.
In November 2018, He Jiankui – another Chinese researcher claimed to have designed world ’s first ever gene-edited babies. Their DNA has been altered to prevent them from contracting HIV.
On the one hand, his work was considered a significant breakthrough among scientists. However, again bioethicists around the world questioned his work. Because as it could be transmitted to future generations, creating a risk of affecting the entire gene pool.
Chinese biomedical researcher Dr. Jiankui, the man behind first Gene-edited babies. Source: Wikimedia Commons
He Jiankui is nowadays facing investigations. Also, for the time being, dismissed from his post at the University.
At the same time when He Jiankui is facing a hard time making a breakthrough in science. The scientists involved in this research are also questioned, whether any introspections leased from this specific research could even be translated to humans?
As we can see the scientists did research i.e. gene-edited monkeys to help humanity and for a future therapeutic approach to such disorders. Their intentions are entirely for help not for harm. They believe that this research may look cruel and inhumane. However, the research also has potential benefits to humanity are worth it.
In the future, I am afraid of King Kong being clone in the lab, not a macaque with circadian rhythm disorders.