Is Human Cloning Next, Now that this Chinese Team has Cloned Monkeys?

And here's Hua Hua

The technique has brought science on the crucial point to being capable of doing the same in case of humans.

The two monkeys, Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, were born at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai and are growing fine, so far.

The process used by the Chinese scientists relied on fetal cells rather than adult cells and is not very efficient, requiring many failed attempts just to create these two successful clones, Greely said. The researchers behind the project state that they hope to create genetically identical monkeys for medical research, which is an immediate practical application of this new development of a monkey clone.

The team had more success using nuclei from fetal cells, and applying epigenetic modulators-genes that regulate genetic expression-to re-activate suppressed genes in the nucleus, which allowed the embryo to develop.

In 1996, scientists at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute successfully cloned a female domestic sheep using nuclear transfer.

Chinese researchers have clarified that, although they broke the technical barrier for cloning primates, they do not intend to clone people.

"We are very aware that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards", Mu-ming Poo, a coauthor on the study, said in the statement. In this study, we have successfully cloned cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

The researchers say the monkeys are being bottle fed and are now growing normally. Of the 149 monkey embryos produced in the study, 79 were transferred into surrogate mothers, and only two were born alive and healthy.

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Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are the first monkey clones created by somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Previously, the somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning technique was used to clone more than 20 different animal species like sheep, dogs, pigs, and cats but to create primates using that technique was very hard. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were cloned using the same foetal fibroblasts, cells taken from the connective tissue of a macaque foetus.

Poo acknowledged the concerns, but stressed that they have no interest in cloning humans.

A rhesus monkey called Tetra was the first primate to be cloned, in 1999, but that procedure - embryo splitting - was a simpler method than SCNT. It has been used to clone 23 species from rodeo bulls to polo ponies and pet cats.

The cloning of the two macaques has not only triggered a debate about human cloning, but has also reignited the debate about animal cruelty.

Those embryos were then destroyed for stem cell research.

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. We transplanted them into 21 monkeys, and found 6 got pregnant.

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