Chimera - this is the name of a creature that consists of the cells of two genetically different organisms. For centuries they were considered fiction, myth, sick imagination of ancient peoples, but now the hybrid of man and animal has become a reality.
Here are just a few examples from modern times. In 1997, the American scientist Charles Vacancy raised a human ear on the back of a rat. When the organ reached the desired size, it was successfully transplanted to the patient. And geneticists from California have been using pigs as donors for two years now.
Now, with the help of genetic engineering, they create such a situation when human organs grow in the pig's body. For example, liver or kidneys. In 2003, a Chinese woman Huizheng Shen fused human cells with a rabbit's egg. In 2004, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota obtained pigs with human blood flowing.
Last year, Chinese geneticists conducted one of the most scandalous experiments in history. They created a chimera of man and monkey. Incredibly, the experience was successful. Human DNA took root in the primate embryo, but the man-ape was not allowed to be born.
A group of researchers deliberately interrupted the process of its development. The fact is that there are still many questions about how such an embryo will develop, how much human cells with human DNA will show themselves, whether they will penetrate into the brain, and whether they will cause the appearance of human consciousness in such a hybrid organism.
Despite the danger of genetic experiments, there are people who are ready to test the craziest ideas for themselves. Australian artist Stell Ark has a third ear transplanted. The man implanted the auditory organ into his hand. And this is Elizabeth Perrish - she is called the world's first genetically modified woman.
In 2016, a 45-year-old woman received anti-aging gene therapy. The therapy was supposed to eliminate two main effects of the aging process: shortening of telomeres and loss of muscle mass.
Telomeres are sections of chromosomes that are responsible for the number of cell divisions before it is destroyed. Although the length of telomeres is individual for each person, a person is born with a telomere length of 15–20 thousand base pairs, and dies with a length of 5–7 thousand. Their length gradually decreases due to a process called the Hayflick limit - this is the number of cell divisions, approximately equal to 50. After that, the aging process begins in the cells.
In 2015, before the start of therapy, Elizabeth's blood was taken for analysis: the leukocyte telomere length was 6, 71 thousand base pairs. In 2016, after the end of therapy, the blood was again taken for analysis: the length of leukocyte telomeres increased to 7, 33 thousand pairs. In theory, this means that the leukocytes in the blood are "younger" by about 10 years. The Parrish procedure took place in Colombia, since such experiments are prohibited in the United States.
The results of the study were confirmed by two organizations - the Belgian non-profit organization HEALES (HEalthy Life Extension Company) and the British Biogerontology Research Foundation.
However, these results have not yet been subject to expert assessments. And more like a trial balloon launched into the mass consciousness. Officially, in most countries today, gene experiments on human embryos are prohibited or strictly limited by regulations.
In 2019, Chinese scientist He Jiankui was sentenced to prison for conducting an illegal experiment with the birth of twins from genetically modified embryos. He inserted a gene for resistance to HIV infection in them without preliminary clinical trials.
For illegal gene experiments on humans, the scientist paid a fine of 3 million yuan, which is more than 27 million rubles. But the main thing is that the Chinese authorities have confirmed the birth of the world's first genetically modified people.
What exactly was this He Jiankui doing?
He and his colleagues selected several married couples in which men were HIV-positive. They then altered the DNA of embryos conceived by in vitro fertilization using the new CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing method. Their goal was to make children immune to the HIV virus that their fathers carried. To do this, scientists have tried to "disable" one single gene in embryos, which is responsible for coding a protein that allows HIV to enter the cell.
According to the materials of the criminal case, as a result of these experiments, two women became pregnant and gave birth to a total of three girls with altered DNA. For reasons of confidentiality, the court was closed and the fate of these children is now unknown.
And these are examples that have sounded in the media. And what experiments are carried out in secret laboratories belonging to the military or mega-corporations such as Bayer, mere mortals are not given to know.