China says it has cloned a mon­key us­ing non-re­pro­duc­tive cells, a 1st

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG ZHIHAO in Bei­jing zhangzhi­hao@chi­

China be­came the first coun­try to clone a mon­key us­ing non-re­pro­duc­tive cells, re­duc­ing the need to breed lab mon­keys and pav­ing the way for more ac­cu­rate, ef­fec­tive, and af­ford­able an­i­mal tests for new drugs, sci­en­tists said on Thurs­day.

By De­cem­ber, the In­sti­tute of Neu­ro­science of the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences had cre­ated two clone macaques named “Zhong Zhong” and “Hua Hua” by nu­clear trans­fer­ring of so­matic cells-- any cell in the or­gan­ism other than re­pro­duc­tive cells. This was the sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy used to cre­ate the fa­mous clone sheep Dolly in 1996.

Te­tra, a rhe­sus mon­key born in 1999, is the world’s first ever-cloned mon­key, but it was done us­ing a sim­pler method called em­bryo split­ting, but it could only gen­er­ate four cloned off­spring at a time and can­not be ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied to suit ex­per­i­men­tal needs, said Pu Mum­ing, an aca­demi­cian at the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences and the di­rec­tor of In­sti­tute of Neu­ro­science, CAS.

“Cloning a mon­key us­ing so­matic cells has been a world-class chal­lenge be­cause it is a pri­mate that shares its ge­netic makeup, there­fore all of its com­plex­ity, with hu­mans,” he said.

“For drug and other lab tests, sci­en­tists have to pur­chase mon­keys from all over the world, which is costly, bad for the en­vi­ron­ment and pro­duces in­ac­cu­rate re­sults be­cause each mon­key might have dif­fer­ent genes,”Pu said.

“By cloning mon­key us­ing so­matic cells, we can mass cul­ti­vate large num­ber of ge­net­i­cally iden­ti­cal off­spring in a short amount of time, and we can even change their genes to suit our needs,” he added. “This can save time, cut down ex­per­i­ment costs, and pro­duce more ac­cu­rate re­sults, leading to more ef­fec­tive medicine.”

Sun Qiang, di­rec­tor of the non-hu­man pri­mate re­search fa­cil­ity at the in­sti­tute, said most of the drug tri­als are cur­rently done on lab mice. How­ever, drugs that work on mice might not work or even have se­vere side ef­fects on hu­mans be­cause the two species are so dif­fer­ent.

“Mon­keys and Hu­mans are both pri­mates, so they are much closely re­lated and test­ing on Mon­keys is sup­posed to be as ef­fec­tive as test­ing on hu­mans,” he said. This is es­pe­cially use­ful in test­ing drugs for neu­ral dis­eases such as Parkin­son’s dis­ease, meta­bolic and im­mune sys­tem dis­ease, and tu­mor, he added.

“This achieve­ment will help China lead the world re­search in an in­ter­na­tional sci­ence projects re­lated to neu­ral map­ping of pri­mate brains,” he said. How­ever, bio labs from the United States, Ja­pan, and Euro­pean coun­tries are also very ca­pa­ble, and they will quickly catch up to China after the mon­key cloning tech­nol­ogy is made pub­lic, Sun added.

“This means we have to in­no­vate con­tin­u­ously and work ex­tra harder this year to stay ahead,” he said.


Zhongzhong and Huahua, the world’s first cloned mon­keys us­ing so­matic cells, play in their cham­ber at the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences In­sti­tute of Neu­ro­sciences in Shang­hai.

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