Chinese scientists successfully clone monkeys

Zhong Zhong peeks around a stuffed toy. (Credit Qiang Sun and Mu-ming Poo  Chinese Academy of Sciences

But now after intensive research on the particular cloning technique for years, scientists have finally created cloned macaques.

Michigan State University scientists Jose Cibelli told the AP that it would be "criminal" to attempt cloning humans via the same method the monkeys were cloned because of how many pregnancies fail.

They say creating clones of monkeys, which are closer to humans than mice or other animals, will help research into human diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and also the development of a treatment.

After the news that two monkeys have reportedly been cloned in China, the chief Vatican official in charge of bioethics said scientists must "evaluate the risks" of such new technology.

In this undated photo provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, cloned monkeys Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua sit together with a fabric toy. They created 127 eggs, 79 of which were transferred to 21 females.

The researchers, instead, are touting the potential for improving primate studies into human health problems such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's. The scientists stress they did the work under strict worldwide codes, and co-author Muming Poo said the team was aware "that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards".

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Unlike animals cloned from an embryo cell, Zhong Zhong and her sister Hua Hua, born at Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences (SIBS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in November and December 2017 respectively, are the first primates to be cloned from somatic cells, China News Service reports.

While only two monkeys have been born, the long experiment could yield more baby monkeys.

Success also hinged on the age of donor cells: Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are clones of the same macaque fetal fibroblasts; cells from adult primates resulted in death only a few hours after birth. This nucleus contains the first animal's genetic code, its DNA. But among them only six got pregnant. Both of them are now in stable conditions, according to the CAS. The two newborns are now bottle fed. Among the steps the scientists had to adjust in order to achieve success was to add the use of fetal cell nuclei, instead of a grown-up monkey.

Poo further stated that "Humans are primates".

"The reason we chose to break this barrier is to produce animal models that are useful for human medicine".

According to him, the ultimate goal is to clone monkeys on a large scale for use as test subjects due to their similarities to humans. The cloning was reported in the prestigious scientific journal Cell. For now, it has not been clearly stated that if, this method can be used for cloning the humans or not. Until now, anyway, as Chinese scientists have just announced they've cloned two monkeys using the same method that gave birth to Dolly.

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