Scientists clone monkeys for the first time

And here's Hua Hua

The cloning technique was first brought to the world's attention by Dolly the sheep in 1996, the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell.

The newborn monkeys, who are now just shy of two months old, were created by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"The barrier of cloning primate species is now overcome", said Muming Poo from Shanghai's Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The researchers in China say they followed the strict worldwide guidelines for animal research set by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and are aware of the ethical implications of their work.

They are genetically identical long-tailed macaques, which researchers say could be useful in trying to find cures for human diseases.

The research report which is available online in the journal Cell, explains that the Chinese scientists involved had to use modulators to switch on or off various genes, in a very complex process of elimination to find the right combination which would allow the embryo to reach maturity and become a viable foetus. But our objective of producing cloned monkeys is purely for human benefit, for medical purposes.

It was the first time scientists had managed 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. But those monkeys were cloned from cells taken from early embryos.

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Chinese researchers recently created a monkey clone, using the same technique that Scottish researchers used to clone Dolly the sheep in the mid-1990s.

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were the result of 79 attempts.

To be clear, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua technically aren't the first primate clones - that honour falls to Tetra, a rhesus macaque born in 1999.

The researchers plan to continue improving the technique, which will also benefit from future work in other labs, and monitoring Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua for their physical and intellectual development. We transplanted them into 21 monkeys, and found 6 got pregnant.

Poo acknowledged the concerns, but stressed that they have no interest in cloning humans. The monkeys are named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, and are reportedly healthy and living in an incubator. For now, it has not been clearly stated that if, this method can be used for cloning the humans or not. In 2007, researchers in OR successfully cloned embryonic stem cells from macaques.

In other words, contrary to some accounts, human cloning has been and is being done, since the act of cloning is SCNT - not implantation, gestation, or birth.

Until now, the technique has been used to clone more than 20 different animal species, including dogs, pigs and cats, but primates have proven particularly hard.

"There's no reason to clone humans at this time", Poo said.

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