Lab-Grown Embryos Mix Human And Monkey Cells For The First Time

By slipping human stem cells into the embryos of other animals, we might someday grow new organs for people with faltering hearts or kidneys. In a step toward that goal, researchers have created the first embryos with a mixture of human and monkey cells. These chimeras could help scientists hone techniques for growing human tissue in species better suited for transplants, such as pigs.

“The paper is a landmark in the stem cell and interspecies chimera fields,” says stem cell biologist Alejandro De Los Angeles of Yale University. The findings hint at mechanisms by which cells of one species can adjust to survive in the embryo of another, adds Daniel Garry, a stem cell biologist at the University of Minnesota (UM), Twin Cities.

In 2017, researchers reported growing pancreases from mouse stem cells inserted into rat embryos. Transplanting the organs into mice with diabetes eliminated the disease. But cells from more distantly related species, such as pigs and humans, haven’t gotten along as well. That same year, developmental biologist Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and colleagues reported injecting human stem cells into pig embryos. After the embryos had developed in surrogate mother pigs for 3 to 4 weeks, only about one in 100,000 of their cells were human.

The pig study used human skin cells that had been reprogrammed into stem cells. But so-called extended pluripotent stem (EPS) cells, made by exposing stem cells to a certain molecular cocktail, can spawn a greater variety of tissues. In the new study, Izpisúa Belmonte, reproductive biologist Weizhi Ji of Kunming University of Science and Technology, and colleagues tested those more capable cells in a closer human relative—cynomolgus monkeys. They inserted 25 human EPS cells into each of 132 monkey embryos and reared the chimeras in culture dishes for up to 20 days.

The team reports today in Cell that the human cells showed staying power: After 13 days, they were still present in about one-third of the chimeras. The human cells seemed to integrate with the monkey cells and had begun to specialize into cell types that would develop into different organs.

By analyzing gene activity, the researchers identified molecular pathways that were switched on or turned up in the chimeras, possibly promoting integration between human and monkey cells. Izpisúa Belmonte says manipulating some of those pathways may help human cells survive in embryos of species “more appropriate for regenerative medicine.”

Still, the human and monkey cells didn’t quite mesh, notes UM stem cell biologist Andrew Crane. The human cells often stuck together, making him wonder whether there’s “another barrier that we aren’t seeing” that could prevent human cells from thriving if the embryos were to develop further.

In the United States, federal funding cannot be used to create certain types of chimeras, including early nonhuman primate embryos containing human stem cells. The new study was performed in China and funded by Chinese government sources, a Spanish university, and a U.S. foundation. Bioethicist Karen Maschke of the Hastings Center in New York says she is satisfied that the work, which passed layers of institutional review and drew on advice from two independent bioethicists, was performed responsibly.

Human-monkey chimeras do raise a worry, addressed in a report released last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (p. 218): that human nerve cells might enter animals’ brains and alter their mental capabilities. But that concern is moot for the chimeras in this study because they don’t have a nervous system. They “can’t experience pain and aren’t conscious,” says bioethicist Katrien Devolder of the University of Oxford. “If the human-monkey chimeras were allowed to develop further,” she says, “that would be a very different story.”

Source: Science Magazine

The U Experience, a startup focused on providing university students a traditional college experience with bubble-style resort campus, moves to Boca Raton Florida (Waterstone Resort & Marina) for fall semester after local outrage from Hawaii bubble hotel plans

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Editor’s Note: On August 17, one day after this story was published, The U Experience announced it would host its program at the Waterstone Resort & Marina in Boca Raton, FL.

Last week, two Princeton alumni garnered national attention for plans to create two ‘bubble’ campuses in Hawaiʻi and Arkansas, just as the University announced that all fall instruction would be remote.

After widespread backlash from local Hawaiʻi residents, the alumni’s business idea, titled ‘The U Experience,’ will no longer come to fruition at either property.

Lane Russell ’18 and Adam Bragg ’16 started The U Experience in response to many colleges’ decisions to conduct fully virtual fall semesters. They planned to house about 150 college students, who would take classes online in a ‘bubble’ hotel, where they could “come to live out the college experience with total peace of mind,” according to the company’s website.

On the same day Russell appeared on CNN, a seven-member team of Hawaiʻi residents published a Change.org petition titled “Stop Bringing Nonresident Students to Hawaiʻi During a Pandemic,” which garnered over 11,000 signatures in just three days.

According to Lexi Figueroa, who helped write the petition, the authors also received an outpouring of support from non-residents, including University alumni, who expressed opposition to The U Experience, citing the “selfish, irresponsible, and disrespectful nature of this project.”

“We only have 340 ICU beds to service the entire population of Oʻahu,” the team behind the petition wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “A single outbreak in a The U Experience ‘bubble’ would deplete nearly half of our health resources.” In total, Oʻahu has a population of nearly one million.

On Aug. 11, the U Experience announced that it had suspended plans with Park Shore Waikīkī and Graduate Fayetteville — just four days after the Business Insider feature.

In their Aug. 11 update, The U Experience team maintained, “our goal is to disrupt education, not local communities.”

Source: Business Insider

TikTok/YouTube stars Alan & Alex Stokes (Stokes Twins) charged with felony after fake Irvine bank robbery pranks that led to police responses at Metropolis Apartments & UC Irvine

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Two 23-year old twins face criminal charges for a prank in which authorities say they staged a fake bank robbery in Irvine that resulted in a police response, including officers holding an unsuspecting Uber driver at gunpoint.

Alan and Alex Stokes, 23, of Irvine each were charged with a felony count of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege that around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2019, the brothers – dressed in black, wearing ski masks and carrying duffel bags full of cash – pretended like they had just robbed a bank, while their videographer filmed them.

According to the DA’s office, the brothers ordered an Uber, but the driver – who was unaware of the alleged prank – refused to drive them anywhere. A bystander, believing the two men had robbed a bank and were trying to carjack the driver, called 911.

Irvine officers ordered the Uber driver out of the car at gunpoint, then released him after determining he hadn’t committed a crime. The officers let the Stokes brothers go with a warning, according to the DA’s office.

Prosecutors allege that four hours later the brothers carried out a similar prank on the UC Irvine campus, and officers once again responded to reports of a bank being robbed. The men left before officers arrived.

Source: OC Register