First primates successfully cloned at the Chinese Academy of Sciences


Chinese researchers have successfully cloned a macaque monkey fetus twice, producing sister monkeys Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong using the same basic method used to create Dolly.

This watershed discovery will potentially lead to a courageous new world of medical research and spark heated debate over cloning another primate species: humans.

The team carrying out the research are part of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai expressed the sentiment that their work will serve as a contribution to medical research in the area of epidemiology.

The scientists insisted they followed strict worldwide guidelines for animal research, set by the US National Institutes of Health.

Populations of genetically identical monkeys are now expected to be created to help with future research into human diseases. Kriegsten noted that the team had tried an adult monkey's cell to clone macaque monkeys, but they didn't get success in that.

Since Dolly's birth in 1996, researchers have copied almost two dozen kinds of mammals, including dogs, cats, pigs, cows and ponies, and have also created human embryos with this method. The cloning technique also allows researchers to genetically engineer monkeys to have genes linked to a particular disease, such as Parkinson's, creating better animal models for the illness.

Although the reason behind the monkey cloning program might not sit well with many in the scientific community who have raised concerns about animal ethics, Muming Poo however said that the cloned animals are to produce animal models useful for medicine, for human health; there is no intention to apply this method to humans.

Researchers expect more macaque clones like Zhong Zhong to be born soon
Researchers expect more macaque clones like Zhong Zhong to be born soon

This is a photograph of Zhong Zhong, one of the first two monkeys created by somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Its science policy adviser Dr Julia Baines said: "Experimenters constantly receive funds to perform monstrous experiments on animals, and cloning monkeys is the latest Frankenscience that PETA condemns". Out of 79 attempts, only two babies were born.

What's also incredible about this feat is that Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are reported to be in flawless health and are now living in an incubator. They appear to be healthy and the institute where they were born anticipates many more cloned macaques to arrive in the coming weeks. Governments around the world prohibit the cloning of humans.

If monkeys are our closest animal relative and they've been successfully cloned, it's only natural to wonder whether we're next.

It took 127 eggs to clone the mammals.

The new study has been published in the journal Cell on Wednesday. It has been used to clone 23 species from rodeo bulls to polo ponies and pet cats. Genetically speaking, mice are just less robust than humans, so therapies that seem to work wonders on rodents often don't scale up.

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