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Meet Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, cloned monkeys inspired by Dolly

26 January 2018

Named "Zhongzhong" and "Huahua" - which together mean "China" - the two macaques are the first primates cloned through somatic cell nuclear transfer, the same technology that created Dolly the sheep in 1996. But the article notes that cloning primates brings the world "closer to human cloning", which raises ethical concerns.

Scientists in China have created the first monkeys cloned by the same process that produced Dolly the sheep more than 20 years ago, a breakthrough that could boost medical research into human diseases.

The scientists insisted they followed strict global guidelines for animal research, set by the US National Institutes of Health. Kriegsten noted that the team had tried an adult monkey's cell to clone macaque monkeys, but they didn't get success in that. Scientists had some luck cloning monkeys using adult cells, but those were only able to survive for a few days.

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.

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NBC quoting a supervisor of the program, Muming Poo, says that "For the cloning of primate species including humans, the technical barrier is now broken". In this study, we have successfully cloned cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

Authors of the report suggest that cloning monkeys will benefit research on human disease.

The process under which the two monkeys were born is known as a somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

Zhong Zhong's twin, Hua Hua.

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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. "There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey", said Sun.

Dolly was the first mammal to be cloned using SCNT, but she certainly wasn't the last.

As for now, the researchers are continuing to monitor Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, who appear to be active and playful in videos from the lab.

The process, now detailed in the journal Cell, was developed over several years by a team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. Obviously, the idea of cloning creatures to use in pharmaceutical tests is ethically fraught - and boy do people have opinions about it! For now, it has not been clearly stated that if, this method can be used for cloning the humans or not.

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The cloning of the two macaques has not only triggered a debate about human cloning, but has also reignited the debate about animal cruelty. Applying this method to humans might simply be so complex as to be pointless, and is such an ethically and legally complex moral thicket even most philosophers would steer well clear.

Meet Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, cloned monkeys inspired by Dolly