Two identical monkeys cloned in China

NEWS DESK: Two identical monkeys have been cloned by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai on Wednesday.

Researchers said they created the clone with the same technique that was used 20 years ago to create dolly the sheep. The long-tailed macaques, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were made from fetal cells grown in a petri dish.

Since then many other mammals have been cloned using the same somatic cell nuclear transfer technique (SCNT), including cattle, pigs, dogs, cats, mice and rats.

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born eight and six weeks ago after 79 failed attempts previously. They are named after the Mandarin term for the Chinese nation and are currently being bottle fed.

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Dr Sun said: “We tried several different methods, but only one worked. There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey.”

The twins represent the furthest reaches of cloning technology, genetically resembling each other entirely.

According to a study published in the journal Cell, the clones carry the DNA of the monkey fetus that originally provided the cells.

The researchers claim they are now close to creating human clones.

Qiang Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience said “There are a lot of questions about primate biology that can be studied by having this additional model.”

He said these model monkeys  will be useful for studying diseases with a genetic basis, including some cancers, metabolic and immune disorders.

Dr. Leonard Zon, director of the stem cell program at Boston Children’s Hospital said, “It’s the first primate ever to be cloned.” He added, “We are closer to humans than we’ve ever been before.”

However this act has been criticised by many and has raised various ethical concerns as to where this will lead.

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Prof Robin Lovell-Badge of The Francis Crick Institute, London, said the technique used to clone Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua remains “a very inefficient and hazardous procedure”.

“The work in this paper is not a stepping-stone to establishing methods for obtaining live born human clones,” he said.

Almost 20 years ago Dolly the sheep was produced from udder cells that had been frozen for six years at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh.

Investigators say the researchers followed international guidelines for animal research set by the National Institutes of Health.

Co-researcher Dr Muming Poo, also of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, said: “We are very aware that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards.”

This story originally appeared on BBC.

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