Embrace yourself! Chinese Researchers have successfully cloned two monkeys which is a giant leap towards ‘copying’ the humans. Employing the same technique that yielded the famous clone of Dolly the sheep, this Chinese laboratory successfully created a pair of identical macaques. They are the most human-like animals yet to be produced by ‘true cloning’ – successfully carbon-copying the DNA of a particular individual.
This huge effort that spanned across years was led by Zhen Liu who is the Postdoctoral fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Liu named these two female macaques’ as Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, which are derived from the word zhonghua, an adjective for the Chinese people. The two genetically identical macaques—eight weeks and six weeks old—are reportedly healthy and currently live in an incubator.
The researchers assure that they have now cleared the final obstacle to human cloning and are hopeful of treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other illnesses.The discovery paves the way for a brave new world of biomedical research and lead to a debate over ‘true-cloning’ another primate species: The humans.
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In 1996, Dolly the sheep became popular as the first mammal to be cloned using somatic cell nuclear transfer technique. Since then, scientists have cloned nearly 20 species—from rabbits to dogs to cows—using this technique, but it is the Chinese effort that marks the successful cloning of those non-human primates in the same way. What makes it a big deal is the fact that the cloning technique used in this study may also apply to other primates such as humans.
Mu-Ming Poo, Member of the Shanghai research team, was inquired if the same method could be tried on human cells. He replied: ‘Yes, why not? A macaque monkey belongs to a primate species, and so do humans. We are also are primates – So, the technical barrier is now officially broken.’
What next? The Chinese research team plans to closely monitor the long-term health of Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, keeping a vigil on how the pair’s brain develops. The coauthors applaud the government of Shanghai for its strong support in their research, as the lab is underwriting plans to expand by more than tenfold. In addition, scientists also hope that Chinese society—which houses broad views on animal well-being—will be conducive to conducting research on non-human primates.