Scientists Just Inserted a Human Intelligence Gene Into Monkeys

Portrait of chimpanzee against black background

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:

The Return of the Gods


Mites, Monsanto Cause Colony Collapse Disorder; Is Fungi A Solution?

Something has killed honey bees in droves for the past 20 years leading to what’s known as colony collapse disorder. For a while, the culprit remained ambiguous, but now scientists are discovering that a number of anthropogenic factors, including Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate, pesticides, and parasites may be to blame. Though these may seem like disparate problems requiring complicated solutions, there is one man who believes he has an answer that could save the bees—that man is Paul Stamets, and his answer is fungi.

Over the past several years, Stamets has become something of a rockstar in the field of mycology—the study of fungi—for his radical and pioneering work discovering the endless applications and influences mushrooms have on our world.

Since he began researching fungi in the 1970s, Stamets has received 12 patents, written six books, and been recognized by a multitude of esteemed institutions. There’s even a character on Star Trek: Discovery named after him—Lt. Cmdr. Paul Stamets.

Part of Stamets’ appeal stems from his Deadhead-turned-scientist persona that views fungi from a spiritual perspective, not just a materialist lens. Stamets admits his early use of Psilocybe cubensis, also known as “magic” mushrooms, became the catalyst for his fascination, leading to a lifelong journey studying the myriad mycelia that populate the planet.

Stamets’ discoveries have changed lives and now he hopes to parlay his mushroom knowledge into a comprehensive plan to save the bees, and in the process, maybe save humanity as well.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Colony collapse disorder is the phenomenon in which there is a mass exodus of worker bees from the hive, typically dying or fleeing from infection. These bees leave their queen behind with a few nurse bees to care for her, though their chances for survival drop significantly, especially as winter draws near. Scientists have identified several factors related to colony collapse, most of which stem from pathogens and chemicals that degrade bees’ immune systems.

And while we all know bees produce honey and wax, many don’t realize just how crucial they are to our survival as a species.

Bees are pollinators, and while this may seem obvious, many are unaware of just how essential bee pollination is to agriculture. When a bee collects nectar from a plant it picks up pollen and transmits it to other plants, allowing them to bear fruit. And a single bee can pollinate up to 1000 flowers a day.

This process is necessary for our agricultural industry, as about 35 percent of our food is directly dependent on bee pollination, while the other 65 percent is indirectly dependent. If bee pollination suddenly ceased, it’s estimated around $16 billion worth of crops would be affected in the United States alone.

And over the past few decades, beekeepers and entomologists have noticed massive drop-offs in bee populations globally. In a matter of a single year, states like Oklahoma lost as much as 85 percent of beehives due to colony collapse. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, a third of all bee colonies have died each year since 2006. So, what exactly is causing this apiological pandemic?

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