SCIENTISTS are on the verge of creating apes which can talk, a medical panel warned the British Government today.
Human brain cells are being transferred to animal brains giving them 'human-like' qualities.
The 'Planet of the Apes' scenario has been outlined by the highly-respected UK's Academy of Medical Sciences.
The panel is calling for a new ethical watchdog to put the brakes on what they call 'Frankenstein-like experiments' including the creation of apes which can think and speak like humans.
The perceived threat comes from a new report into experiments which transplant human cells into animals for medical purposes.
Concerns about the creation of talking apes should be taken seriously along with "what one might call the 'Frankenstein fear' that the medical research which creates 'humanised' animals is going to generate monsters", it is claimed.
Members of the Academy fear that experiments to transfer human brain cells to animal brains
risks creating animals with human-like consciousness, spawning a hybrid human-animal.
Human brain cells have already been transferred into mice.
Professor Thomas Baldwin, a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences working group that produced the report, said the possibility of humanised apes should be taken seriously.
He said: “The fear is that if you start putting very large numbers of human brain cells into the brains of primates suddenly you might transform the primate into something that has some of the capacities that we regard as distinctively human.. speech, or other ways of being able to manipulate or relate to us.”
The scenario is not a million miles away from the plotline of new movie Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, in which scientists searching for an Alzheimer's cure create a new breed of ape with human-like intelligence.
The Academy is calling for a tough ethical committee to be set up as a watchdog on these experiments.
Prof Martin Bobrow, chair of the Academy working group that produced the report, said: “A limited number of experiments should be permissible subject to scrutiny by the expert body we recommend; and a very limited range should not be undertaken, at least until the potential consequences are more fully understood.”