Back in 1964, astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed a three-tiered system for defining the level of technological capability of a civilisation. This system — known as the Kardashev scale — has three levels. Broadly speaking, a type 1 civilisation has mastery of the energy sources on its home planet; a type 2 civilisation has mastery of the energy sources of its home star system; and a type 3 civilisation has mastery of the energy sources of its home galaxy. No shade on Nikolai Kardashev, but I would like to propose my own, vastly superior system.
The ‘McLeay scale’ defines two categories of a civilisation’s technological capability: A type 1 civilisation is not capable of producing pig-monkey hybrids, whereas a type 2 civilisation is capable of producing pig-monkey hybrids. While this is very much a scale I only made up just then for the purposes of this article, it’s still thrilling to learn we might well be on the cusp of becoming a type 2 McLeay civilisation.
As the big, delightful nerds at New Scientist are reporting, scientists from the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing managed to produce pig-monkey hybrids from live births, as part of a larger attempt to grow human organs in animals.
Two piglets were born with genes from monkeys, making them the “first full-term pig-monkey chimeras,” according to team leader Tang Hai. The piglets, which were given cells from cynomolgus monkey that were genetically modified to produce a fluorescent protein, died within a week of their birth.
Over 4000 embryos were implanted in sows, producing ten piglets in total. While only two of the piglets where chimeras, all ten died within a week and, according to the team, it is unclear why at this stage.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe), the chimeras looked more or less like regular piglets, with only a small proportion of their cells coming from the monkeys — somewhere between 1 in 1000 and 1 in 10,000.
What a future.Image: Getty Images / Tang Hai