Monkey breakthrough a step closer to human cloning?

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The two-identical long-tailed monkeys have named as Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.

Researchers hope their technique will make it possible to study diseases in populations of genetically uniform monkeys.

Has science moved a step closer to producing human clones?

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, however, are not the first primate clones in general; they are the first genetically produced primates using a modified version of the Dolly method. There could be success with cloning based on adults, too, as the team is still waiting on results from multiple pregnancies.

On the other hand, Dr Callum MacKellar, Director of Research of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics warned that the research on the some extent, opened door to human cloning.

Zong Zong and Hua are the first primates (including monkeys, and humans) cloned by this method.

Human cloning is banned under global law and Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader of the Francis Crick Institute in London, warned it would be foolish to attempt to clone humans using the same technique.

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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.

"Careful consideration now needs to be given to the ethical framework under which such experiments can, and should, operate", he said. A promised tenfold increase in funding could allow as many as 20 to 30 clones produced a year.

Since Dolly's birth in 1996, researchers have copied almost two dozen kinds of mammals, including dogs, cats, pigs, cows and ponies, and have also created human embryos with this method.

In contrast, to create a clone using SCNT, you need to replace the nucleus of an egg cell with the nucleus of a somatic (body) cell, which contains DNA from another individual. But those monkeys were cloned from cells taken from early embryos. The older a starting cell, the more hard it is to clone and the more likely the resulting embryo or fetus will be miscarried in a surrogate female.

Chinese scientists have said cloned monkeys, which are genetically identical, will be used in research into human diseases such as cancers, metabolic and autoimmune diseases. That honour goes to Tetra - a rhesus monkey born in 1999 using a simpler method known as embryo splitting. Kriegsten noted that the team had tried an adult monkey's cell to clone macaque monkeys, but they didn't get success in that. These modulators switch on or off the genes that are inhibiting embryo development. "Because cloning has a failure rate of at least 90%, these two monkeys represent misery and death on an enormous scale".

The US National Institutes of Health sets global guidelines for research animals, which the Chinese Academy of Sciences says it is following, and Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are thriving, growing at a healthy rate.

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