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Chinese Military-Linked Researchers ‘Humanized’ Mice to Test Coronavirus Prior to Pandemic

Prakash Gogoi
Prakash covers news and politics for Vision Times.
Published: June 22, 2021
Chinese scientists developed mice with human-like lungs to test viruses.
Chinese scientists developed mice with human-like lungs to test viruses. (Image: Nature_Blossom via Pixabay)

Researchers in communist China worked on a project where mice with human-like lungs were used to test the infectiousness of various viruses, including the COVID-19 virus or SARS-CoV-2. Such Chinese experiments have even received funding from the U.S. government. 

April 2020 Study

A Vanity Fair report cites a study from April 2020 co-authored by 23 researchers. Eleven of the researchers worked at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, the medical research institute of the Chinese army.

“Using the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, the researchers had engineered mice with humanized lungs, then studied their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. As the NSC officials worked backward from the date of publication to establish a timeline for the study, it became clear that the mice had been engineered sometime in the summer of 2019, before the pandemic even started,” according to Vanity Fair.

Officials at the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) apparently knew about this and were left wondering whether the Chinese military was testing viruses on “humanized mouse models” to determine which of them were infectious to humans. 

The NSC officials thought they had enough clues to support a lab leak theory of the COVID-19 pandemic and began talking with other U.S. agencies about it. However, their concerns were not reciprocated with any interest.

“We were dismissed… The response was very negative,” Anthony Ruggiero, NSC senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense, told the media outlet.

An NSC team also came across a 2015 research paper by Shi Zhengli, the lead coronavirus researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). WIV is communist China’s leading coronavirus research facility that contains one of the largest samples of bat virus strains in the world. 

Zhengli was one of the first scientists to propose horseshoe bats as “natural reservoirs for SARS-CoV” (SARS virus). The paper was co-authored with Ralph Baric, an epidemiologist from the University of North Carolina.

The research paper discussed experiments in which mice were used as test subjects. The study inserted the protein sourced from a Chinese rufous horseshoe bat into the molecular structure of the 2002 SARS virus. This ended up creating a new infectious pathogen. The paper proved that the spike protein of a novel coronavirus can infect the cells of a human being.

The Vanity Fair report also states that Zhengli’s research team at WIV had tested at least two novel bat coronaviruses in the past three years on humanized mice in a bid to determine their infectiousness. More information on the two viruses were not disclosed.

July 2020 study

Politico reports about a study published in early June 2020 that detailed the work of a team of Chinese researchers from Beijing. The researchers studied genetically modified mice that had lung cells containing the human ACE2 receptor, which is the cell receptor that allows coronaviruses to easily infect human beings.

Several of the scientists involved in the study were linked to the Academy of Military Science. U.S. officials believed that the Beijing lab was conducting coronavirus tests of the mice even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a fact that the lab failed to disclose. 

“This was just a peek under a curtain of an entire galaxy of activity, including labs and military labs in Beijing and Wuhan playing around with coronaviruses in ACE2 mice in unsafe labs… It suggests we are getting a peek at a body of activity that isn’t understood in the West or even has precedent here,” a senior administration official said.

December 2017 research paper

An April 2020 report by The Sun cites a research paper from December 2017 that details the experiments on mice conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The mice were injected with a virus that traced their neural activity. Some of them had metal pieces implanted on their heads. Wires were attached to the tails. The mice were then given electric shocks.

The experiments aimed to generate fear in mice that were put in cages with electrified doors. Loud noises would be played. One of the tests involved dehydrating the animals for 23 hours and then forcing them to run on a wheel in order to be rewarded with water. After the tests were conducted, the mice were killed and their brains were dissected. WIV was involved in developing the virus as well as preparing brain samples.

U.S. Funding

Fox News cites data from White Coat Waste Project to report that the WIV was involved in research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of the grants, worth $3.4 million, involved injecting viruses into the brains of mice. 

Another grant, worth $3.7 million, was given to research bat coronaviruses. The exact amount received by WIV is unknown since the institute was one of the many which collaborated on such research. 

“The U.S. government’s spending spree that we’ve exposed at the notorious Wuhan Institute of Virology is outrageous and unacceptable… Taxpayers should never be forced to bankroll China’s hazardous bio-agent experiments, which put human life around the world gravely at risk,” the White Coat Waste Project’s vice president for advocacy and public policy Justin Goodman told Fox News.