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.