Fifty-nine days ago, a monkey in Shanghai gave birth to a clone. The infant was the first primate to be cloned using tissue cells, the technique that produced Dolly the sheep. A second monkey, identical to the first, was born 10 days later. The two clones, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, are alive and healthy, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences told reporters Tuesday.
“Monkeys are nonhuman primates that are evolutionarily close to humans,” said Muming Poo, a neuroscientist and member of the cloning team. He also said: “There is no intention for us to apply this method to humans.”
The achievement suggests it is now possible to create research populations of identical, customized monkeys, which Poo and his colleagues said would decrease the number of primates used in laboratory experiments.
Kevin Sinclair, a developmental biologist at the University of Nottingham in Britain who was not involved with this research, said this was a significant step in nonhuman primate cloning. “It’s the first time that primates have been born using the technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer, which is the technique that was used to produce Dolly the sheep, gosh, almost 22 years ago now,” he said.
Researchers have attempted to clone nonhuman primates for nearly two decades. At the end of the 1990s, scientists created an artificial monkey twin by splitting an embryo. This process cannot be used to clone adult animals and cannot be repeated to create identical clone copies.
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