Monkeys finally cloned using Dolly the sheep technique

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Two monkeys in China were cloned using the same technique that was used to create Dolly the sheep.

The first author LIU Zhen, a postdoctoral fellow, spent three years practicing and optimizing the SCNT procedure.

Somatic cell nuclear transfer is different. In theory, this cloning technique can produce a long line of animals, each as indistinguishable as plastic monkeys in a barrel.

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are the product of "somatic cell nuclear transfer", the technique used to create Dolly the sheep in the United Kingdom in 1996. With the rate at which technology is advancing, we could be set to face an entirely new set of moral challenges in the coming years. That resulted in 22 pregnancies and just two baby monkeys born alive by caesarian section, but both died of respiratory failure within 30 hours. The technique worked only when nuclei were transferred from fetal cells, rather than adult ones.

Two cloned macaques named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are held by a nurse at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' primates research facility.

This handout picture from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience, taken on January 20 and released on January 24, 2018 shows monkey clones "Zhong Zhong" (L) and "Hua Hua" at a research institution in Suzhou in China's Jiangsu province.

While these are not the first cloned primates, previous attempts were made by splitting the embryos, which according to CNN is a simpler method with limited offspring. "There's a lot of progress yet to be made". "While they succeeded in obtaining cloned macaques, the numbers are too low to make many conclusions, except that it remains a very inefficient and hazardous procedure", said Robin Lovell-Badge, an embryologist and head of the Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute.

Monkeys finally cloned using Dolly the sheep technique
Monkeys finally cloned using Dolly the sheep technique

VandeVoort said the reliance on fetal tissue is a potential limitation. But they warned that two monkeys engineered by Chinese researchers must not become a step toward cloning humans. "If you found a really interesting animal that you wanted to clone, it's probably not going to be found when it's a fetus", she said. "The reason. we broke this barrier is to produce animal models that are useful for medicine, for human health".

In other words, the clones seem to be up to typical monkey business.

"We plan to produce more cloned monkeys designed for gene-related brain diseases, such as the Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and autism". "Humans are primates. So (for) the cloning of primate species, including humans, the technical barrier is now broken", cloning program supervisor Muming Poo told reporters.

That's in part because China has invested heavily in basic research in recent years but also because European and US scientists have moved away from doing research using monkeys and apes due to ethical concerns. If genetic variations in monkey subjects were eliminated, she said, scientists could more efficiently focus on differences that arise from behavioral or drug treatments.

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

Sinclair, who has studied the health of clones such as Dolly's identical "sister" sheep, was bullish on the monkeys' long-term survival.

"The two monkeys are very active and healthy, they progress very rapidly like human babies", author Qiang Sun said. In general, he said, if clones survive the first few months of infancy, they develop like any other animal.

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