Organ transplants

Scientists Have Created Human-Monkey Embryos, and That's Ethically OK

The eventual goal is human organ transplantation.


An international team of researchers led by the Salk Institute biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte report in Cell that they have created the world's first human-monkey embryos. Their goal is not to generate half-monkey, half-human servants; it is to figure out how human and animals cells interact, with the goal of eventually growing human transplant organs in animals like pigs and sheep.

The researchers injected human pluripotent stem cells into already growing monkey embryos and then traced how human cells developed and migrated as the chimeric embryos grew for 20 days in Petri dishes. In the mixed embryos, 3 to 7 percent of the cells were human.

The National Institutes of Health human stem research guidelines currently prohibit research in which human pluripotent stem cells are introduced into non-human primate blastocysts. Over the years, a number of state and federal bills have been introduced to ban this type of research. That is among other reasons why the laboratory work for this research was conducted in China.

Some bioethicists have expressed concerns about the research.

"My first question is: Why?" asked Kirstin Matthews, a fellow for science and technology at Rice University's Baker Institute, when interviewed by NPR. "I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we're just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do."

One often-mentioned worry is that human neurons could possibly get installed into an animal's brain and somehow make its consciousness more humanlike. Another fear is that human cells that produce sperm and eggs could migrate into the testes and ovaries of monkeys, who might then mate and create a human fetus. Surely such possibilities require further ethical reflection, but the mixed cells in these experiments got nowhere near such possibilities.

As the researchers conclude, "this line of fundamental research will help improve human chimerism in species more evolutionarily distant that for various reasons, including social, economic, and ethical, might be more appropriate for regenerative medicine translational therapies." Translation: This research aims to help scientists figure out how to grow fully human organs in other animals, such as pigs and sheep, that are not as evolutionarily close to us as monkeys. Given the ongoing and persistent transplant organ shortage, let's hope this work succeeds.

NEXT: The Real Inflation Risk Is Political

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Bonus points for the funniest blm joke!

    1. Change Your Life Right Now! Work From Comfort Of Your Home And Receive Your First Paycheck Within A Week. No Experience Needed, No Boss Over Your Shoulder… Say Goodbye To Your Old Job! Limited Number Of Spots Open… Find out how HERE……. Visit Here

      1. JOB FOR USA Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much dsf better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
        on this page…..VISIT HERE

    2. Single Mom With 4 Kids Lost Her Job But Was Able To Stay On Top By Banking DSD Continuously $1500 Per Week With An Online Work She Found Over The Internet. Check The Details HERE…. Visit Here

    3. Would something along the lines of ‘aborting a million human-monkey hybrids at a million typewriters to grow replacement organs for rich white folks’ be a BLM joke?

      1. Is this better or worse than rich white folks buying their organs from the CCP as usual?

        Are half-monkey kids or Fulan Gong believers a better source of high-quality livers and corneas for discriminating connoisseurs like Soros or Koch?

        Fortunately, noted humanitarian Ron Bailey, says that the former is a-okay.

      2. If we could use stem cell and cloning research and technology to create vat-grown organs, it wouldn’t just be “rich white folks” benefitting from organs, but all of us.

    4. I have made $13594 last month by working online from my home. I am a full time college student and by just doing this in my free time for few hours per week by using my laptop, I payed off my student loans. Check this out and B GH start making cash online in so incredibly simply way by just following instructions on this website…

      >>>>>>>>> Visit Here

  2. I guess are we really concerned with ethics anymore??? Is that an argument we can legitimately make Ron?. Didn’t we and you support just doing a mass trial vaccine on everyone?

    1. No ethical problem there unless the government starts forcing people to take the vaccine. Everyone should be free to take any drug they want.

        1. Ihre Papiere bitte.

      1. What counts as force? Strapping them down to a gurney to hold them down for an injection, or does putting them into internal exile from the rest of society until they agree to take a vaccine also count?

      2. papers or no travel, please. papers or no employment, please. and so on.

      3. The government has been standing in the way of rapid deployment of the vaccines to everyone and somehow you think it’s all a plot to trick us to getting the shot? Pretty clumsy conspiracy if true.

    2. What ethical issues haven’t already been established? Everybody already thinks its okay to kill animals to eat them, or because they are nuisances. If we kill an animal because it has a human organ inside it we want to transplant into a human, how is that significantly different? If anything the animal will probably be raised more humanly than in most farms because they don’t want the transplanted organ to have any stress put on it.

      I certainly don’t think growing a human organ inside a monkey or a pig somehow makes that animal human.

      1. You don’t know any farmers do you?

        1. He received his degree in bioethics from the University of Farmville 2.

  3. Why don’t we just clone humans and use them for organ transplant?

    1. Have you seen the movie “shoot em up”? That was literally the plot. (although they crammed the entire plot into 2 minutes the rest was all action

      1. Also the plot of the book “Never Let Me Go”.

        1. Never Let Me Go is the movie I had in mind. At least I think it would be the best model going forward at least.

      2. I think The Island was more directly comparable, and earlier than Shoot em Up

        1. But shoot em up was way more halarious over the top

        2. Never Let Me Go is more directly comparable, and way more realistic.

    2. From an entirely efficiency-based viewpoint I’d say because of gestation and growth times. That’s a key factor why mice and rabbits became popular model organisms.

    3. They did that in The Island, and the weirdos broke out.
      One of them was a young Scarlett Johansson though, so that was fun.

      1. Next thing you know, the Luddites will say: “Oh noes! Islands can have H.G. Wells-style Dr. Moreau ‘lost souls’ and Richard Connell-style ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ going on in broad daylight! Ergo: Ban Islands! ”

        Literally “No man is an Island!”

        “Save your dinosaur money! Pangaea’s Gonna Rise Again!”

    4. My thought was along the same lines in the opposite direction: seems like Ron’s OK with slavery as long as you cut the slaves up first and only put their organs to work.

      1. You are asserting facts not found in evidence.

        1. You don’t know the difference between facts and opinions.

          1. So where did Ron Bailey ever assert that slavery was ethically OK? That which you claim as fact is what is not in evidence.

            1. You don’t know the difference between facts and opinions.

          2. Facts are what I believe in, opinion is what others believe in!

    5. Hopes for chimeral RNA vaccines for climate denial and Dunning-Kruger syndrome have been dashed by the emergence of herd immunity to reason.

    6. With stem cell and cell cloning research and technology unimpeded by the minefield of Federal and State legislation, we could have vat-grown organs and tissue without depending on born humans or cloned humans. And we could also end the vast queue for organ transplants this way.

      1. First, the queue isn’t vast. It’s a lot of people, but vast implies that people everywhere need replacement organs, they don’t. Mountain ranges are vast, you can travel entire mountain ranges and find no one who needs a transplant. Football stadiums aren’t exactly vast and everyone on the waiting list could fit inside one.

        Second, hybrid embryo technology is about as useful to stem cell technology as hybrid engine technology is to appliances. A perfected monkey-hybrid pluripotent stem cell doesn’t address organ recipients any more than a 500mpg hybrid addresses not owning a washer/dryer.

        Third, in light of the above you’re waving a rhetorical magic wand. If you’re going waive a wand, fixing the problem in vivo without any transplant whatsoever or even preventing it entirely would be the humane thing to do.

        Fourth, even if a magic wand were being invented, the rich would have first access. Magic wands don’t exist. I know you have trouble with facts, but that’s one of them. And, regardless of our preferences or opinions, mountains of cash are the closest thing we’ve got.

        1. Along a long enough time frame, everyone will need replacement organs and tissue and many need replacement kidneys, livers, pancreases, hearts, teeth, bones, bone marrow, etc. as we speak.

          And remember the object is to grow human organs in non-human species. Having the organ live in a living thing increases the “shelf-life” of the organ better than having it fresh-plucked and cryogenically-suspended, and growing the organ in another species avoids the risk of “freezer-burned” organs as well. So this is very relevant.

          In vivo pre-emption of diseases and conditions are ideal, but not all operations on that front are yet possible and not all necessity for organs come from in vivo conditions. They can be needed from accidental or human-created injury. For that reason, sustaining the life of transplantable organs is necessary.

          All new technology goes to the rich at first. (Egalitarian Socialists once argued against The Apple desktop because “it creates two classes: those who have it and those who don’t.”) But with competition, increase in supply, and improvements in quality and speed of operations–as well as getting government out of medicine–hybrids to grow and sustain organs and tech to vat-grow organs can be in everyone’s reach.

          Hey, take heart and have a heart! 😉

  4. The important thing is: can they abort them?

  5. “Their goal is not to generate half-monkey, half-human servants”

    Their goal isn’t necessarily the issue, though. Can other people use this technology for evil purposes–and should they be free to use it however they please?

    Seems to me that we’re heading into some murky abortion like ethical issues. Do we have an ethical obligation to a fetus not to turn it into a monkey-man?

    1. Ken I don’t disagree with you at all, I think Ron isn’t the person to be making any sort of ethics consideration.

      1. Are we sure Ron is a person? Show your proof.

        1. That isnthe law. Are we not men?

          1. “We are DEVO!…D-E-V-O!”

      2. Ron’s transhumanist credentials are in good standing, I believe, and the freedom to make chimeras has been central to transhumanism for a long time.

        Still, I wouldn’t drop all that on him by association. There are libertarians who believe that the legitimate purpose of government is to protect our rights–including the rights of the unborn–and there are libertarians who believe that forcing a woman to carry a baby to term against her will using the coercive power of government is fundamentally authoritarian rather than libertarian. In other words, being libertarian doesn’t necessarily dictate a position on abortion.

        As a transhumanist, I suspect Bailey thinks that we should all be free to experiment with our own genes and that parents should be free to improve or take risks with the genes of their offspring. Being in favor of nuclear power doesn’t necessarily mean one supports dropping nuclear bombs indiscriminately, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Bailey opposes one person manipulating another person’s offspring without the parent’s consent.

        The issue of what parents should or shouldn’t be allowed to do with the human embryos they create is still an open question. How do you obtain the consent of an embryo? Meanwhile, as libertarians, we all understand the difference between ethics and legality. All sorts of unethical behaviors should be perfectly legal for various reasons, and creating monkey-human embryos may be one of them, just like abortion may or may not be one of them. I don’t think you’ll ever get away from the ethical dilemma.

        At best, they can probably only rationalize it as another aspect of what Heidegger called “thrownness”. You don’t get to choose your level of intelligence, your looks, your predisposition for genetic diseases, etc. before you’re born either. This may be the road to being able to have your parents choose those things like they never could before, which might be better. And if you’re born with some monkey DNA, maybe it’s just another aspect of that “thrownness” we’ve been living with since forever.

    2. I have less issue with half-monkey and more with the servitude part.

      I suspect one day we’ll have to clarify that personhood extends beyond Homo sapiens and the law applies to them too.

      1. I’m a big believer in the idea that rights are the obligation to respect agency, and while animals may not have agency to the same degree we do, to the extent that their agency reaches, we may be behaving unethically when we ignore it. Whether the law should encompass those ethics is a separate question of course, and I’m not suggesting that flatworms in a petri-dish deserve the same consideration as those that have passed the mirror test.

        I saw a YouTube video of some bear hunters once. A hunter was sitting in a tree-stand, maybe 30 feet in the air. The hunters were using bait-barrels, and while one of them was trying to get a line with his crossbow, the bear looked up, saw him in the tree, and scampered up the tree after him as quick as a cat. The bear sniffed at the back of his head for about a minute, during which time the hunter sat quietly and still. The bear decided the hunter was no threat, so instead of swatting the hunter out of the tree and mauling him, the bear climbed back down the tree and went back to the bait-barrel. That’s when the hunter killed the bear.

        Bears are predators in their ecosystem, and so are Homo Sapiens. I wouldn’t necessarily have an issue with a Homo Sapiens predator preying on a bear predator, much like the reasons why shooting someone on a battlefield isn’t necessarily murder. After the bear decided to let me live so long as I wasn’t a threat, however, I think I’d have an ethical responsibility to return the favor. He shot that bear under a flag of truce! Whether there should be a law to protect bears under those circumstances is another question entirely, but once we exclude the assumptions of creationism from consideration, the ethics that govern our actions within our own species don’t necessarily break down completely when we start dealing with other species.

        From an ethical, libertarian standpoint, we may not have the right to torture our dogs to death.

        1. One question. What shampoo did the hunter use?

          1. It was the ursine version of Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific.


        2. I think I more or less agree. In this case we’re potentially manufacturing something with Human equivalent agency, the aftermath of which is largely existential.

          I subscribe to Nikolai Berdyaev’s personalist philosophy that the act of creation is largely human and is the ultimate revelation of personhood. Whether it’s art, construction, music, conversation, etc. Some individuals’ act of creation is resulting in new lifeforms (something I’m aspiring to in my own line of work – just not in a transhumanist sense) and I think it’s ultimately amoral until people use it to some end.

          I like to think that’s the trick behind the Divine creation of humans. Humans aren’t made “for” anything, and neither should future highly sentient species be.

          1. So you’re saying God made man “for” nothing? All the Apologetics are going to have a shit-fit when they get that memo.

        3. Why can’t more of the discussion here be like this instead of 67 millionth rerun of the circle jerk of commenters calling each other’s sock puppets names? I shouldn’t even bother to read the comments because 99% of it just proves the commentariat here is a hive of scum and villainy. But the occasional intelligent engagement keeps me coming back.

          1. Well said.

        4. I can’t remember the quote but a central idea to rights as God-granted is reciprocity. If the dog would torture you to death, you’re under no obligation to respect its agency in that regard. NAP.

      2. I am not worried about half monkeys, I am worried about half humans. Humans tend to be terrible critters.

  6. Seems to me that we’re heading into some murky abortion like ethical issues.

    I thought the only abortion-like ethical issues that exist are “is there a single real or perceived impediment for a person who identifies as a woman to get an abortion on demand at any point during the pregnancy, including but not limited to the unviable tissue mass traveling down the birth canal while in labor?”

    1. Abortion is different in that both the situation where one person is entitled to feed off another person is unique and the responsibility one person has for the very creation of another person is unique.

      From an ethical perspective, I maintain that the will of the woman is paramount–not just when the fetus is aborted but also when the fetus is created. Rape is a special consideration because the mother’s agency wasn’t respected at the moment of conception. She is only ethically obligated to the fetus when she willingly engages in activity that might create the fetus. It’s the willful choice to engage in activity that creates the fetus that also creates the ethical obligation.

      Of course, just because you’re ethically obligated to go to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, after you willingly promised to go, doesn’t necessarily mean the government should throw you in prison if you decide to ghost her for Thanksgiving–regardless of how long and hard she worked over a hot stove.

      1. “It’s the willful choice to engage in activity that creates the fetus that also creates the ethical obligation.”

        Feminists understand this when you talk to them about men and paternity suits, but when you talk about women being treated the same way for the same reason, somehow their understanding of the issue from that perspective completely breaks down.

  7. Just looked up some possible images; do we not already have enough problems? I can just imagine the chimeric identity politics arising out of this.

    1. “Chim-chimney! Chim-chiminey! Chim-chimeric!”

  8. Keep your pluripotent stem cells off of me, you damn dirty ape


    1. “Eh, you know what they say: ‘Human see, human do.'”

  9. Man that’s a shame. I’ve always wanted a half man, half monkey butler. Guess the orphans get to keep their jobs for a few more years.

    1. Soviets tried that.
      Didn’t work.

    2. Pogo is the most likeable character in the Umbrella Academy.

      1. I Go Pogo! was a great HBO Claymation special for kids, and surprisingly quite small-l, anti-voter libertarian for the network it was on in the Eighties. It made a great accompaniment with the readings of Robert J. Ringer “The Tortoise.”

    3. If he were like Hobson from Arthur, he’d probably say: “I suppose you want me to fling poo at you, sir?”

  10. Great Replacement Theory is REAL!

    1. “Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of man’s downfall, the day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland, out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans, except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you…NOW!!”–Caesar’s Speech in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

  11. *their* goal doesn’t matter

  12. Last week I linked to a video of one of Elon Musk’s companies developing a brain implant that let a monkey play Pong hands free–using nothing but his mind.

    They said it was all to help paraplegics use smart phones, etc. How big can the market for people who can’t speak commands to a computer really be? His plans must be bigger than that.

    To those of you who have long accused Musk of using Tesla, First Solar, the Boring Company, SpaceX, and now Neuralink as testing vehicles for Musk’s real ambition–which is to colonize Mars, cover the surface with solar panels, install an underground transportation system, and set himself up as something like a Martian God, complete with an army of telekinetic monkey super-soldiers to terraform the planet and enforce his will on the rest of us?

    Don’t add monkey-human hybrids to the list of exhibits just yet. I’m not sure why he’d need them or us for anything–unless they didn’t have any rights. Just like the colonization of the New World, the colonization of Mars will probably involve forcing people to go there by violating their rights and sending them against their will. People with rights were a real pain in the ass. They were always complaining, rebelling, and revolting. People without rights, by comparison, were extremely valuable in the New World.

    1. I still have a Pong.

      1. Is that a real Pong or a Sear’s Pong?

    2. Regimes in both the Old World and the New World disregarded individual human rights. The trick for libertarian space settlers will be to shirk and shake off the regimes of Earth without creating an equally bad or worse regime. Elon Musk would be the least qualified for this task, monkeyshines or no, since he is on the government teat and “Who takes the King’s coin, obeys the King’s rules.”

  13. So the real question is will 3% to 7% be enough for them to register and vote?

    1. Yes if Democrats, no if Republicans.

  14. I just want thumbs implanted in my feet. I could get more done.

    1. Might get Athlete’s Thumb, though.

    2. I had that done, I keep tripping and falling down.

  15. “…and That’s Ethically OK.”

    Joseph Mengele gives to enthusiastic thumbs up … from hell.

    1. Ron Bailey used to be notorious in journalism college for his twin experiments, and he owes it all to old Joe.

    2. Funny, Mengele’s boss said something very different that also reveals possible thoughts about Evolution, Intelligent Design, In Vitro fertilization, and “designer genes:”

      “A Volkisch state must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement of the race, and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape.” (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 2 Chapter 2.)

  16. I’m fairly certain we already have monkey human hybrids roaming around.

    1. Are we not men?

  17. Pig organs eh!

    * Moses or Mohammed, your pick.

    1. The Late, Great Lewis Grizzard both wrote and did stand-up about his heart surgery where he got the aortic valve of a little pig named Jerome (Awwwww!)

      He said he experienced no side effects except that when he seen a plate of barbecue, his eyes filled with tears. 🙂

      1. It is hard not to admire a man who can write a book titled “The Chili Dawgs Bark at Midnight”.

        1. He also wrote a title something like: Be Careful in the Garden, Granny! You Know Them Taters Got Eyes! Classic and classy Southern Comedy!

          I miss the man, but I’m also glad he’s not having to live and ply his craft in this present society. He’d be savaged literally from all sides!

  18. Part-human, part-monkey? I thought we already have that in the form of an orange-bronzed gorilla that lives at Mar a Lago.

    1. Oh shit. You poor soul, you must have mistaken this for the Huffpo comments.
      You would have got a lot of laughs and attaboys there, I’m sure.

      1. Imagine watching the Futurama episode “Bender Should Not Be Allowed on Television” and coming away thinking “Calculon is the good guy and Bender is the bad guy.” Now replace Bender with a bronzed gorilla and Calculon with a reanimated corpse.

        1. “As the Captain of this hospital ship, I pronounce you man and wife with 6 mos. to live.”

          The absurd conflation/usurpation of authority isn’t that far off reality and It doesn’t even require that much imagination to picture Sleepy Jo… I mean the reanimated corpse saying that.

    2. Derivative, but no less true.

      “Witless Ape Rides Helicopter”
      “Goodbye to Donald J. Trump, the man who wanted to be Conrad Hilton but turned out to be Paris Hilton.”

  19. Scientists Have Created Human-Monkey Embryos, and That’s Ethically OK

    “They sleep all night and they work all day!”

    1. They certainly have an edge on the “swinging from tree to tree” part.

      1. I was thinking the “they” were the scientists, though that image of the scientists “swinging from tree to tree” is funny too.

  20. So many irrational users of – a general malaise brought on by the Internet.

    1. Good thing you’re a unique snowflake and totally not like those “other people”, or you wouldn’t have the mental facilities to be able to look down on us for it.

  21. Why not just encourage more monkey fucking?

    1. Yep, just plop ’em down in front of the CP Telethon when Captain Jenks calls and they’ll get plenty of ideas.

  22. Hopes for chimera research producing vaccines for Vaxxer, climate denial and Dunning-Kruger syndromes have been brought to an end by the emergence of herd immunity to reason.


  23. Do you want Planet of the Apes? Because this is how you get to the Planet of the Apes.


    2. Don’t all the dogs and cats have to die first?

  24. I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.

    Public may be concerned but that doesn’t matter. Scientists matter and they generally have no ethics.

  25. the monkey’s are protesting their step down the Darwinian ladder!

  26. Do you want make a Planet of the Apes type of world a reality instead of just classic 1960s movies? This is how you get that.


  27. Anybody else remember during the Bush Era when Embryonic Stem Cells were going to enable the paralyzed to walk and be used to grow organs and tissue for the diseased? Remember the threats that if the government didn’t fund such research, China was going to beat us to it?

    Glad I wasn’t waiting on a liver, or a lung. Especially one that wasn’t succeptible to COVID.

  28. This is the plan to replace all of those straight-ticket Dem voters that they’ve been aborting since Roe v. Wade.

  29. The LINE as to what should be considered ethical, at least for now and for the foreseeable future, is pretty easy to find. It is if it changes the human genome line. Experiments and procedures that do not do this are not in any way dangerous to our species (or to any other species for that matter) and should be allowed unless there is some other credible reason not to.
    Most gene technology, including the one described here, is not done on germ cells; any effects are on a single individual and are not carried forward genetically into their descendants. Whatever danger such procedures might present to such an individual (and some potential technologies have been paused or stopped because of the risks to the patients), they do not threaten humans in general.

  30. Ethically OK, but it’s gotta be making those in Marin County more than a bit nervous.

  31. Ethical or not, while we are arguing, China will be advancing

    1. See above. At this point China’s probably several decades ahead of us in not curing anything with embryonic stem cells.

  32. Engineering genetic material is a common practice. The creation of the mRNA (for the spike protein) in the Pfizer and Moderna jabs was the easiest part of developing the vaccines.

    Experiments are being done to create new base pairs (within the DNA helix). Those results could bring things never imagined (for good or otherwise). Should we not do it?

    1. New base pairs have already been invented a couple times over. That’s on top of the other bases that already existed in the purine and pyramadine families. New bases are no big deal, it’s like inventing a new key. Unless you invent a new lock that goes along with it, all you’ve done is a parlor trick.

  33. As long as this leads to talking dogs, i’m okay with it.

    1. As long as David Berkowitz “The Son of Sam” is on the “No Sale” list.

  34. Wouldn’t chimps or orangutans be better subject to gene splice with humans? Give us super strength.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.