First Nonhuman Primates Cloned in China

And here's Hua Hua

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, two identical long-tailed macaques, were born eight and six weeks ago respectively, making them the first primates to be successfully cloned from a non-embryonic cell.

This watershed discovery will potentially lead to a courageous new world of medical research and spark heated debate over cloning another primate species: humans.

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

But the researchers, from China, say they don't want to clone people. And researchers hope their findings, published Wednesday in the journal Cell, will make it possible to study things like disease among populations of genetically uniform monkeys, for example.

That's the neat and tidy version anyway - the truth is still a fair bit more messy and inefficient: it took 127 eggs to get two monkey babies, and so far the scientists have only produced healthy clones with DNA from a monkey fetus, not a fully grown adult monkey. The cloning technique also allows researchers to genetically engineer monkeys to have genes linked to a particular disease, such as Parkinson's, creating better animal models for the illness.

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"This study demonstrated that cloning of non-human primates is feasible by SCNT using fetal somatic cells, which could be efficiently modified by genetic editing and screening in vitro", the authors write.

The successful births came from DNA taken from fetal, not adult, cells.

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

To see Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua crawl over a giant Hello Kitty stuffed animal and fall over each other, you'd think they were just normal macaques - and indeed, what's special about them isn't immediately visible.

The birth of Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua comes 20 years after Dolly made history after being cloned at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh.

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"There would undoubtedly be a market for human clones".

The monkeys were born to surrogate macaque monkey mothers by caesarian section ten days apart, in a lab in Shanghai. Human cloning is illegal in about 70 countries-interestingly, though, the U.S. isn't one of them. People have always been anxious about the possibility of human cloning.

The duo are not the first primate clones. "Because cloning has a failure rate of at least 90%, these two monkeys represent misery and death on an enormous scale". Although the method has already been used to clone dozens of other animals like cats, dogs, rats and cattle, this is the first time primates have been replicated, potentially paving the way to cloning humans in the future.

Those embryos were then destroyed for stem cell research. Nor are there any global protocols preventing such a use of human cloned embryos.

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