Genetically Engineered Monkey

By Mario Ritter

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

American scientists have created the world's first genetically engineered monkey. A team of scientists at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center did the research that led to the birth of the monkey.

The scientists took a gene from a kind of jellyfish. They put it into a special virus that does not cause infection. Then they put the virus into more than two-hundred eggs from rhesus monkeys. Only forty of the eggs were successfully fertilized and began to develop. The scientists placed the fertilized eggs into twenty female monkeys. Three baby monkeys were born and survived. One monkey carried the jellyfish gene.

The gene from the jellyfish makes a protein that looks green under blue light. The gene was chosen because it produces an effect that can be seen. However, no part of the monkey appears green under blue light. The scientists say the jellyfish genes are in the cells of the monkey. But, they say the genes are not fully working in the cells.

The method used to place genes from one kind of animal into another is not new. The method has been used since Nineteen-Seventy-Six. The process has been used to genetically engineer fruit flies, cows, pigs, and other animals. However, this is the first time scientists have genetically changed a member of the group of animals that includes monkeys, apes and humans.

Head researcher Gerald Schatten says the experiment shows that genetic engineering works. He said his goal is to create monkeys that have been genetically engineered to develop human diseases. Scientists could then use the animals to study new treatments for humans with the disease. However, he says the value of the work remains uncertain because of the many problems involved in the process. The scientists published their findings in the publication Science. Other scientists disagreed about the importance of the research.

Rudolph Jaenisch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says using a virus to put genes into an egg is not an effective method. He says this method only creates animals with added genes. He says most human genetic diseases are caused by a missing or abnormal gene.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.