Cloned chimps could pave the way for human cloning; Scientists say no

26 January, 2018, 02:44 | Author: Jeffery Armstrong
  • Zhong Zhong peeks around a stuffed toy. (Credit Qiang Sun and Mu-ming Poo  Chinese Academy of Sciences

Researchers said they created the clone with the same technique that was used 20 years ago to create dolly the sheep.

Yet the claims made by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai that the process will be a boon for medical science was condemned tonight by the global animal welfare group, PETA UK.

Investigators say the researchers followed global guidelines for animal research set by the National Institutes of Health. If it proves to be reproducible, the technique could create large groups of monkeys with pre-engineered genetic backgrounds - ideal subjects for studying human diseases and testing new treatments. And while a number of additional mammals including horses, rabbits and dogs have been cloned since Dolly's days, what makes the inherent findings so significant is that up until this point, monkeys on the cloning block have exhibited resistance to the SCNT technique, researchers noted.

It was the first time scientists had been able to clone a mammal from an adult cell.

They're not the first primates ever to be cloned - that honour goes to Tetra, a rhesus monkey cloned in 1999 in OR using the embryo-splitting method.

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"This study demonstrated that cloning of non-human primates is feasible by SCNT using fetal somatic cells, which could be efficiently modified by genetic editing and screening in vitro", the authors write. Under this, the scientists transfer the nucleus DNA of a cell, into an egg which has had its nucleus DNA removed.

Humans could be cloned by this technique, in principle, said Poo, though this team's focus was on cloning for medical research.

The process under which the two monkeys were born is known as a somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are the first monkey clones created by somatic cell nuclear transfer. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were cloned using the same foetal fibroblasts, cells taken from the connective tissue of a macaque foetus.

Michigan State University scientists Jose Cibelli told the AP that it would be "criminal" to attempt cloning humans via the same method the monkeys were cloned because of how many pregnancies fail.

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"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".

If monkeys are our closest animal relative and they've been successfully cloned, it's only natural to wonder whether we're next.

What will the clones be used for?

The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics warned the research "opens the door" to human cloning.

We are tempted to reason that the implication of this scientific success is that human cloning is now theoretically possible; one that might be perfected in few years to come.

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The research is reported in the latest edition of the journal Cell.

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