Health Care

First monkeys cloned by process that produced Dolly the sheep

First monkeys cloned by process that produced Dolly the sheep”

For the first time, researchers have used the cloning technique that produced Dolly the sheep to create healthy monkeys, bringing science an important step closer to being able to do the same with humans.

"The method used for these experiments is similar to that used to clone Dolly", in 1996 but with several "updates", said William Ritchie, an embryologist on the team that cloned Dolly the sheep at the Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh.

Each then became a clone of whatever cell its nucleus came from.

To understand more about human development and disease, the world's most forward-thinking scientists are developing and employing groundbreaking, non-animal methods - such as sophisticated tests using human cells and tissues - which replicate human physiology more accurately than experiments on animals do. Until the most recent experiment, however, all attempts to clone primates with SCNT had failed. To overcome this issue, the researchers introduced epigenetic modulators - chemicals that switched off the genes that prevented an embryo from forming. Essentially, the Chinese scientists removed the DNA-containing nucleus from monkey eggs and replaced it with DNA from the monkey fetus. They implanted 181 embryos derived from the adult macaque cells into 42 surrogates, and two live babies were born-but they died nearly immediately. However, they made some changes to the procedure that resulted in 79 embryos, which they implanted in 21 female monkey surrogates. Again, only two babies were born. But this time, they survived. "There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey".

Even so, there's good reason to suspect that monkeys would be better models of human disease than the mice scientists use today.

"You can produce cloned monkeys with the same genetic background except the gene you manipulated", Sun says in the statement.

"You can produce cloned monkeys with the same genetic background. for genetically based brain diseases", said Sun Qiang, director of the Nonhuman Primate Research Facility of the local-based institute.

First monkeys cloned by process that produced Dolly the sheep

But some experts have cast doubt on the value of the new research.

Robin Lovell-Badge from the stem cell biology and developmental genetics laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute also told The Independent that the research is too new to tell if it will have any effect on human cloning.

"It remains a very inefficient and hazardous procedure", he says.

Unsurprisingly, the experiment has also drudged up questions about the ethics of animal cloning and animal testing, both highly contentious fields of research. Cloning would allow scientists to produce genetically identical, customizable lab animals that can be engineered to have just the traits that scientists want to study.

Archbishop Vincenzio Paglia, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said scientific progress must have as its goal prioritizing human life, and said this could allow cloned animals to be designed for medical experimentation.

"It is much more hard to remove monkey cell nuclei than those of mice", Sun Qiang, Director of non-human primate research at Chinese Academy of Sciences says. "However, our research goal is entirely for producing non-human primate models for human diseases; we absolutely have no intention, and society will not permit, this work to be extended to humans".

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