A team of researchers in China has announced the birth of a living monkey that contains a significant proportion of cells derived from a monkey stem cell line, marking a scientific first.
The newborn, a male monkey, was the result of a remarkable experiment in which pluripotent stem cells from two genetically distinct fertilized eggs from the same monkey species were used to create a viable long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and functional.
This macaque displays visible features such as eyes that glow green and fingertips that glow yellow, thanks to cells derived from stem cells. While not the first such case, this birth was considered the most diverse – or chimeric – of them all, according to researchers in China and Britain, and was reported in the journal Cell on November 9.
The scientific term “chimera” refers to an organism composed of cells from more than two genetically different parents or embryos of the same species.
Although this phenomenon has previously been demonstrated in rats and mice, it has so far not been realized in other species, especially non-human primates. According to lead author Zhen Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), this achievement is a long-held goal in the field.
According to the Chinese researchers, this discovery has important implications for understanding naive pluripotency in other primates, including humans, and could make relevant contributions to the field of genetic engineering and species conservation.
“In particular, this work could help develop more accurate monkey models for studying neurological diseases and other biomedical research,” the Chinese researcher pointed out.
For this study, the monkeys used were cynomolgus monkeys, also known as crab-eating or long-tailed macaques, common species in biomedical research.
The researchers developed nine stem cell lines using cells taken from 7-day blastocyst embryos and cultured these lines to encourage them to differentiate into various cell types.
These stem cells were tested to confirm their pluripotency, meaning the ability to transform into all the cell types needed to create a viable animal. These stem cells were also labeled with a green fluorescent protein, allowing the researchers to identify the tissues in the monkey’s body that develop from the stem cells.
The team chose a specific subset of stem cells to inject into early morula monkey embryos (4-5 day old embryos), which were then implanted into female macaques, resulting in 12 pregnancies and six live births.
Further analysis confirmed the substantial presence of stem cell-derived cells throughout the body of the live-born monkey and the aborted fetus, both male.
The researchers used the green fluorescent protein marker to identify tissues containing stem cell-derived cells and used gene sequencing and other tests to confirm their presence in various organs.
According to the analyses, the contribution of stem cells in the different tissue types ranged from 21% to 92%, with an average of 67% in the 26 different tissue types tested. The overall efficiency of this process was considered “low”, but it is a promising advance in the field.
The researchers said they plan to optimize this method to increase the efficiency of generating chimeric monkeys and investigate the mechanisms that support embryo survival in host animals to improve the viability and success of this process.
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