Scientists Just Inserted a Human Intelligence Gene Into Monkeys
A team of Chinese scientists recently inserted copies of a human gene believed to be associated with intelligence, into the brains of rhesus monkeys in an attempt to narrow the intellectual evolutionary gap. And according to their results, monkeys who were introduced to MCPH1 showed “remarkable” improvements in short-term memory.
The experiment sparked similar ethical concerns as when a Chinese scientist modified the genes of a human baby late last year, using CRISPR technology to give it HIV immunity.
But despite the dreadful image of an ape with near-human sentience, à la Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, the study arouses some interesting relevance to the ancient astronaut theory that humans may have been seeded by an advanced species from elsewhere in the cosmos.
Unlike the incredibly extensive amount of time it takes for most physical traits to evolve, the human brain’s evolution happened extraordinarily fast. In the span of about two to three million years – a blip on evolutionary timelines – our brains doubled in size, and subsequent intellect. What was the catalyst for such rapid growth? Did someone introduce some gene(s) to our ancient hominid ancestors, like Australopithecus, which turned us into the intelligent Homo sapiens we are today?
The specific gene involved in the Chinese study is known as MCPH1, or microcephalin, which can lead to babies with small heads if damaged in humans. In addition to improved memory, scientists noticed the monkeys’ born with the MCPH1 gene took longer for their brains to develop, much like the extensive time it takes human brains to fully develop, though there wasn’t a noticeable increase in the monkeys’ brain size.
Scientists introduced between two and nine copies of MCPH1 into a group of monkey embryos, raised them, and then gave them memory tests.
But after the negative backlash from the international community of biologists it’s unlikely Bing Su, the leading geneticist involved in the study, will continue these experiments much further.
Though with China’s lax ethical standards when it comes to this type of bioengineering, it’s tough to say for sure.
“Although their genome is close to ours, there are also tens of millions of differences,” Bing Su told the MIT Tech Review. “Impossible (that the monkeys would become something other than a monkey) by introducing only a few human genes.”
It doesn’t seem too far off that messing around with a few more genes or introducing enough of a specific gene from another species might tilt the scales in the direction of some chimeric creature. Scientists have already experimented with the creation of chimeras – just ask Alex Jones. Of course, they didn’t allow them to develop past fetal stages, or so they claim.
And China certainly isn’t the only country experimenting with human brain cells in animals, as U.S. scientists have done the same with mini-brain organoids implanted in mice. They say these may be developed as mini cortex repair kits for humans someday to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s.
But is it even possible to bestow human intelligence on a less developed ancestral species, and if one allowed these species to continue to evolve over millions of years, would this subtle intervention eventually lead to a more advanced version of that species? If so, would this prove that our intelligence may have been seeded from a more advanced biological ancestor of our own?
For that we’ll have to defer to Erich von Däniken and this episode of Beyond the Legend:
Biotech Company To Send Woman to Space to Birth First E.T. Baby
There’s a long list of activities expecting mothers are typically told to avoid and often they’re pretty mundane; prolonged physical activity, amusement park rides, and getting a tattoo. Not included on this list – because any sane human would consider it to be pretty much implied – is space flight. But now a biotech company called SpaceLife Origin, wants one lucky lady to cast those overly cautious maternal instincts aside and take a trip into the exosphere, so she can give birth to the first (technically) extraterrestrial child.
SpaceLife Origin is founded on the premise that humans are getting close to colonizing other planets and that Earth is becoming an increasingly hostile environment, due to climate change and other unnamed threats. Accordingly, its founders set up a series of missions that involve launching the precursors of life into space over the next few years, and eventually launching a pregnant woman into space to give birth by 2024.
Their first launch, planned for 2020 and titled Mission Ark, is being marketed as mankind’s ultimate insurance policy, offering individuals the ability to store their “Seeds-of-Life” in a satellite hovering in low-earth orbit for the next several decades. Those with the means to afford it can buy themselves piece of mind, knowing their potential progeny will be stored safely off-planet, impervious to any anthropogenic or natural disasters down here amongst us plebeians.
Their second project, set to launch in 2021 and titled Mission Lotus, involves the first attempt to conceive a human being in space – though not by traditional means. Human egg and sperm cells will be launched up to a space station, where they will be used to artificially create an embryo that will mature for a few days, before being returned to Earth, where gestation will continue inside the mother. Nine months later, she will give birth to the first child conceived off planet.
Finally, Mission Cradle hopes to enact the first birth of a human being in space, technically creating the first “extraterrestrial” baby ever. But how would they get a pregnant woman into space without the G-forces, radiation, and other extreme conditions affecting her unborn child? And what about the trip back? All great questions.
SpaceLife says it’s possible though, and that it’s necessary for us to learn the technical aspects of this process if we ever want to colonize distant planets.
“It’s a small step for a baby, but a giant baby-step for mankind,” said Dr. Egbert Edelbroek, SpaceLife Origins Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer.
It’s hard to tell if the company has achieved the necessary funding, partnerships with space agencies, or humans willing to donate their seeds, but if we had to guess, the latter part of that equation is likely the easiest box to check.
SpaceLife’s website includes a promotional video that shows the evolution of mankind’s achievements in a quick montage of stock images, followed by a video of Elon Musk speaking at a SpaceX event. It’s unclear whether the company is actually in talks with Musk, but it’s obvious they’re at least trying to give him a nudge to recognize their lofty plan.
Unsurprisingly, the tentative space nation Asgardia, has expressed its support of SpaceLife’s plan, as it too, hopes to pioneer a number of firsts in space, including a space station that would support an entire nation. But as idealistic and romantic as this all sounds, it always leads one to wonder whether these futurists have the interests of the people in mind, or whether they’re only considering the upper echelon of society.
For more on the potential existence of an elite plan to covertly colonize our solar system, watch this episode of Deep Space: