For quite some time, researchers have been trying to expand the methods used to clone Dolly the sheep into other mammals. They are eight and six weeks old and are genetically identical, coming both from the same donor culture of fetal monkey cells.
The use of genetically identical animals in research helps to avoid variability factors that could spoil experiments. "Finally, they did it".
"In principle, it can be applied to humans, " says Poo.
That's in part because China has invested heavily in basic research in recent years but also because European and USA scientists have moved away from doing research using monkeys and apes due to ethical concerns.
They aren't the first primates cloned, but the first produced using the single cell nuclear transfer technique. "It would be far too inefficient, far too unsafe, and it is also pointless". Trounson notes that monkeys are costly, researchers hesitate to use monkeys if alternatives are available, and drug regulatory agencies "don't demand monkey studies anymore".
As mentioned above, discovering a technique to create a monkey clone is a major step forward for science, but it also has the potential for abuse. In the end, there were two live births.
The procedure was technically challenging. In this technique, scientists take the nucleus out of a healthy, unfertilized egg, then replace it with the nucleus from a somatic cell (any cell other than a reproductivecell). Seventy-nine embryos survived in the lab, apparently healthy enough to transfer into the uteruses of surrogate monkey mothers. Still, the approach succeeded where others had failed. That let the DNA abandon its job in the fetus, which involves things like helping to make collagen, and take on the new task of creating an entire monkey.
"There is a strongly held belief that monkeys will be better models because of greater similarities in brain and behavior", said neuroscientist Robert Desimone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Today, new human medicines are regularly tested on critters like mice or in test tube conditions (also called "in vitro"), but Moo believes cloning animals - specifically those genetically close to us - is necessary.
Cloned monkey Zhong Zhong sits with a fabric toy.
Jose Cibelli, a cloning expert at Michigan State University in the U.S., says technically speaking, cloning a human could be possible in a matter of years.
In multiple statements and interviews, the researchers emphasized that they have no intention of applying their findings to human cloning attempts. "I think that's the key". They don't really have any incentive to do so, either, according to Peter Andrews, a professor in the University of Sheffield's department of biomedical science. The Texas scientists who created the clone in 2001 called the furball CC, for carbon copy.
With this type of cloning technique, Keefer noted that researchers can give all the clones a specific type or variant of a gene, perhaps one that causes an incurable disease like cystic fibrosis.
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.
However, critics questioned whether the experiments were ethical.
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