First News - - Science News - by Ed­die de Oliveira

TH­ESE two hand­some fel­las, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, are macaque mon­keys that have made his­tory.

They are the first mon­key clones cre­ated us­ing the same method that made Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned an­i­mal. Dolly was cre­ated in 1996 us­ing a tech­nique known as so­matic cell nu­clear trans­fer (SCNT).

The method in­volves re­mov­ing the nu­cleus (cen­tre) of an un­fer­tilised egg and re­plac­ing it with one from a cell that has been taken out of the body of the crea­ture that is to be cloned. This fu­sion cre­ates an embryo (the very early de­vel­op­ment stage of an an­i­mal). This embryo is then placed in­side a mon­key mum who will give birth to the cloned an­i­mal. The SCNT method has been used to clone many an­i­mals, in­clud­ing cats, mice and dogs.

Be­fore this ground­break­ing work, macaque mon­keys had been cloned by split­ting an embryo in two, which is sim­i­lar to the process that oc­curs when iden­ti­cal twins are formed. Dr Mu-ming Poo, one of the scientists be­hind the re­search, says the clones will help ex­perts bet­ter un­der­stand hu­man dis­eases and de­velop drugs to cure them.

Mon­keys are pri­mates, the same mam­mal or­der that hu­mans be­long to. There are fears that scientists will be able to clone hu­mans one day soon. Many peo­ple ob­ject to this, ar­gu­ing that it could cre­ate ‘de­signer ba­bies’, where mums and dads can spec­ify what kind of child they want.

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