Scientists do love messing around with nature in the name of science. From glow-in-the-dark dogs and cats to cyborg rats, a great deal of scientific advances happen from seemingly bizarre experiments. The latest round of oddities are two chimeric monkeys, born at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University.
This isn't the monstrous hybrid chimera of ancient mythology; in genetics, the term "chimera" refers to an organism created from the cells of multiple distinct organisms. In the case of rhesus monkeys Hex, Roku, and Chimero, stem cells from separate embryos were combined into a sort of genetic mash-up, and each monkey contains genetic material from as many as six different genomes.
The monkeys, which are reported to be completely healthy (and utterly adorable, as baby monkeys tend to be), represent an important discovery in stem cell research. The scientists used a specific type of stem cells, called totipotent cells, harvested from very early embryos, which are capable of becoming any type of cell in the body and creating a whole animal. This is as opposed to pluripotent cells, which can grow into any type of cell but cannot make other embryonic tissues or become a whole animal. Pluripotent cells are the type usually used in stem cell research, but this evidence suggests they aren't as capable as totipotent cells.
Stem cell research will likely continue to be a controversial and important area of scientific research for many years to come, so for now, take a look at the video and enjoy some cute baby monkey antics!
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