In this undated photo from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, cloned monkeys, Zhong Zhong, and Hua Hua sit together with a fabric toy. For the first time, researchers have used the cloning method that Dolly the sheep to make two healthy monkeys may bring scientists closer to being able to do that with people. (Sun Qiang and Poo Muming/Chinese Academy of Sciences via AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time, researchers have used the cloning method that Dolly the sheep to make two healthy monkeys, brings the science a significant step closer to being able to do the same with the man.
Since the birth of Dolly in 1996, scientists have cloned nearly two dozen species of mammals, such as dogs, cats, pigs, cows and polo ponies, and also the use of human embryos using this method. But until now, they are not able to babies on this way in primates, the category that includes monkeys, apes and humans.
“The barrier of the cloning of primates is now overcome,” said Muming Poo from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai.
He and colleagues announced their success with macaques in a document released Wednesday by the journal Cell. The female baby monkeys, 7 and 8 weeks old, have been named Zhong Zhong, and Hua Hua.
“It’s a long way,” said one of the scientists who tried and failed to monkeys and was not involved in the new study, Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon Health & Science University. “Finally, they did it.”
(In this undated photo from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, cloned monkey Zhong Zhong is with a fabric toy. For the first time, researchers have used the cloning method that Dolly the sheep to make two healthy monkeys may bring scientists closer to being able to do that with people. Sun Qiang and Poo Muming/Chinese Academy of Sciences via AP)
In principle, Poo said, the performance means that humans can be cloned. But he said that his team has no intention to do that. Mainstream scientists generally oppose the creation of human babies by cloning, and Shit said the society would forbid, for ethical reasons.
Instead, he said, the goal is to create many genetically identical monkeys for use in medical research, where they are particularly valuable because they are more like humans than other laboratory animals such as mice or rats.
The process is still very inefficient — it took 127 eggs to get the two babies — and so far, it has succeeded only by starting with a monkey fetus. The scientists produced healthy babies from an adult monkey, but they are still working. Dolly caused a sensation, because she was the first cloned mammal from an adult.
The procedure is technically challenging. In essence, the Chinese scientists removed the DNA-containing nucleus of monkey eggs and replaced by the DNA of the monkey fetus. These reconstituted eggs grew and divided, eventually, an early embryo, which was then placed in female monkeys to grow to the birth.
The scientists implanted 79 embryos to produce the two babies. Yet, the approach succeeded where others have failed. Poop said that was because improvements in the laboratory techniques and because researchers are still two substances that helped with the reprogramming of the DNA of the fetus. That way, the DNA-abandon his job in the fetus, that comes to things like helping to make collagen and the new task of creating an entire monkey.
The Chinese researchers said that the cloning of fetal cells can be combined with genetic techniques for the production of large numbers of monkeys with specific genetic abnormalities that cause disease in humans. The animals can then be used for the study of these diseases and test treatments. The researchers said that their first targets will be Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Mitalipov, pointing to the Chinese produced healthy babies from adult cells, said he suspects attempts to clone babies from a human adult would not. “I don’t think it would be advisable to anyone to even think about it,” he said.
Jose Cibelli, a scientist at Michigan State University, said that it would be technically possible one day, but “criminal” to try right now because of the suffering caused by the many lost pregnancies, the process brings with it.
If the procedure was efficient enough in monkeys, he said, the society could be faced with “a major ethical dilemma on whether to customize it for the man. The most important step of the transfer of DNA can be combined with gene editing to correct genetic disorders in embryos, resulting in healthy babies to be born, ” he said.
Of course, the familiar image of human cloning is to make a copy of someone who is already born. That would be possible one day, but “I don’t think it should be continued,” said researcher Dieter Egli from the University of Columbia. “I can’t think of a strong advantage.”
Henry Greely, a Stanford University professor specializing in the effects of biomedical technologies, said the strongest argument he can think of would be the desire of grieving parents to produce a genetic copy of a dead child. But he doubts that is a compelling enough reason to engage with the extensive and expensive effort that is needed to such a procedure adopted, at least for “decades and decades.”
Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California, named it unethical to have a subject that new child “the psychological and emotional risks of life under the shadow of his genetic predecessor.” Human cloning could also require many women to donate eggs and to serve as surrogates, ” she said.
At the moment, due to safety concerns, the federal regulatory agencies in the US would not allow the making of a human baby by cloning, and international scientific groups also oppose it, said biomedical ethics expert Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals condemned the monkey-cloning experiments.
“Cloning is a horror movie: a waste of lives, time and money — and the suffering that such experiments cause is unimaginable,” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “Because the cloning of a failure rate of at least 90 per cent of these two monkeys represent misery and death on a massive scale.”