Chinese scientists successfully clone monkey in major scientific breakthrough

Scientists clone monkeys for the first time

The genetically identical, long-tailed macaques were born at the Institute of Neuroscience of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai.

In this undated photo provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, cloned monkeys Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua sit together with a fabric toy.

The researchers in China say they followed the strict worldwide guidelines for animal research set by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and are aware of the ethical implications of their work. To overcome these hurdles the researchers deployed epigenetic modulators to alter the genes that were inhibiting the embryo development, and it was also discovered that nuclei taken from fetal differentiated cells, such as fibroblasts, improved the success rate of the technique in monkeys.

The babies are the first true cloned primates as previously scientists had "cloned" primates by splitting an embroyo in half, a process which is essentially artificial twinning.

Back in 1996, University of Edinburgh researchers working with biotechnology company, PPL Therapeutics, utilized a variant of the same SCNT process to procure Dolly - the world's first domestic sheep cloned from an embryo.

Researchers maintain that cloned monkeys would allow scientists to study "a lot of questions" about primate biology. "There is now no barrier for cloning primate species, thus cloning humans is closer to reality", Poo tells reporters (via The Guardian).

This involves transferring DNA from the nucleus of a cell to a donated egg cell, which has had its own DNA removed.

However, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, from The Francis Crick Institute in London, said he did not believe it increased the chances of cloned humans.

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The two monkeys were part of a total of 79 different transfer attempts, which used different techniques.

As for now, the researchers are continuing to monitor Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, who appear to be active and playful in videos from the lab.

"Although it looks like that would be technically hard, those with enough financial resources and the ambition to be the first to create a cloned child are likely to try". We transplanted them into 21 monkeys, and found 6 got pregnant.

Genetically identical: Cloned monkeys Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.

The monkeys were cloned using a technique that swaps out the nucleus of an egg cell for the nucleus of a cell from the animal that scientists wish to clone. The cloning method has been used for animals but never used to produce a human. Human cloning is illegal in about 70 countries-interestingly, though, the USA isn't one of them.

What will the clones be used for?

However, this will probably spark protests and debates, since cloning animals for research purposes doesn't appeal to an ever larger portion of the population, especially when speaking about a species so similar to us.

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