On January 18, 2001, CNN and the BBC reported that a group of infant rhesus macaque monkeys had been born carrying DNA from a jellyfish. The result was not quite the stuff of a 1950’s Sci-fi epic – complete with undulating, translucent tentacles attached to the enraged visage of a quasi-aquatic primate – but a simple, ordinary baby monkey, with one unique characteristic… its hair and fingernails glowed green under ultraviolet light.
The first of these monkeys to be born was given the name “ANDi,” which is a reverse acronym for “inserted DNA.” The experiment was conducted by faculty members of the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center (led by Dr. Gerald Schatten), who placed the jellyfish gene into the primate embryos in the hopes of eventually utilizing new “gene swapping” techniques in an effort to come closer to curing such diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.
The team chose rhesus monkey embryos due to their genetic similarity to human beings, and the jellyfish DNA was employed because it is known to be harmless as well as easily detectable – at least under ultraviolet light.
Even as harmless (not to mention potentially beneficial) as these experiments are, they have, of course, stirred up quite a controversy in both scientific and private sectors. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokesman, Peter Wood, even went so far as to state:
“Meddling with the building blocks of life is extremely dangerous. It goes right to the core of the research philosophy, which is ‘I can do with animals as I please. I can even change their physiology.”
Although the scientists who worked on this project claimed that they would be reticent to go forward with any human-hybrid experiments, they maintain their assertion that creatures such as ANDi have been created for the benefit of all mankind.
Whether you fear the future or embrace it, it would seem that Pandora’s Box has been flung open, and it’s only a matter of time before we will come face-to-face with a plethora of unimaginable creatures whose likenesses were once relegated to the printed page or the silver screen.