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Add in a Few Intelligence Genes

Technology Review reports that researchers in China have developed transgenic macaque monkeys that harbor copies of a gene associated with human intelligence.

Kunming Institute of Zoology's Bing Su, the senior author of the study, tells Tech Review that this approach is enabling them to study the evolution of human cognition. Su and his colleagues report in the journal National Science Review that they generated 11 transgenic rhesus monkeys with the human version of the MCPH1 gene, that the transgenic monkeys' brains took longer than usual to develop, and that the monkeys performed better on tasks assessing their memory, as compared to wild-type monkeys.

But Tech Review says this effort has raised ethical concerns among some researchers, who worry that it could encourage more drastic changes to be made to monkeys and apes and that these studies of humanizing them might do them harm. Su tells it, though, that, unlike apes, monkeys are more distantly related to humans, making these alterations unlikely to do much. He adds that he next plans to study SRGAP2C.