Chinese scientists have successfully cloned monkeys, using the same technique that produced Dolly the sheep in the 1996. They hope the cloned monkeys can help with medical advances, such as treatments for brain-related disorders and cancers.
CGTN’s Yang Chengxi reports.
The two new-born cuties are named Zhongzhong and Huahua, after the Chinese word Zhonghua, which means China. The two are identical. They are the first pair of cloned monkeys using the same technology that researchers used to clone Dolly the sheep in the mid-1990s.
“It is not an incremental progress, but this is a major breakthrough,” Pu Muming, Director of neuroscience at Chinese Academy of Sciences said. “This is the culmination of five years of efforts of our research team.”
A team of researchers in Shanghai did it by removing the nucleus of a fetal monkey cell and replacing it with that from another cell. The cell is then stimulated to develop into an embryo, before finally being transplanted into a surrogate mother.
“It is much more difficult to remove monkey cell nuclei than those of mice,” Sun Qiang, Director of non-human primate research at Chinese Academy of Sciences says. “The procedure is delicate and we failed many times. The faster you do it, the less damage is to the egg. It took a year and a half of practice, and we accomplished it by making many improvements to the procedure.”
Experts say that this breakthrough will have far reaching implications for the medical research community, as monkeys and humans share very similar DNA, and that cloned monkeys themselves have the same genetic background, which makes them excellent specimens for control group medical experiments.
“This will generate real models not just for all kinds of genetically based diseases, but also serve as excellent experimental subjects for understanding how the human brain works,” Sun Qiang says.
China aims to substantially expand the lab and the project. Researchers predict that there should be 20 to 30 more facilities creating monkey clones within five years.
Dr. John Pippin on the significance, ethics, and future of cloning
For more on the significance of this development – and the ethics and future of cloning – CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Dr. John Pippin, a medical ethics expert and director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.