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Experts Say Cloning of Monkeys Helps Advance Medical Research

Jan 30, 2018     Email"> PrintText Size

Overseas experts have hailed the recent success in the cloning of monkeys by Chinese scientists, saying it will help advance medical research.

China announced last week that it had successfully cloned the world's first macaques from somatic cells, using the same technique that had created Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, in 1996.

The two cloned macaques, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were produced at the non-human primate research facility under the Chinese Academy of Sciences at the end of 2017. A third is due this month and more will arrive this year, scientists said.

"Cloned animals can be used as much more suitable models for many human diseases and monkeys are better models than other animals for these experiments," Dr. William Ritchie, an embryologist on the team that cloned Dolly at the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, told Xinhua.

"Cloning has the ability to make genetically identical animals which would reduce the number of animals required to give good results in some experiments," Ritchie said.

The monkey is a very important non-human primate model that is genetically comparable to humans, said Xionghui Lin, a researcher in the Laboratory of Stem Cells and Cancer with the Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

The species are widely used in research to find treatments for human diseases, particularly disorders related to the human brain like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's, Lin said.

Sergei Kiselyov, head of the Epigenetics Laboratory at the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the cloning of monkeys can bring great benefits to humanity.

"First of all, there is a possibility of obtaining genetically identical individuals, which can significantly reduce the time and cost of pre-clinical research of medicines due to the greater genetic standardization of experimental animals," he said.

"I would also expect the genetic material to be used for transplantation to be able to undergo genetic modification ... which will make it possible to model many human diseases in the most approximate way," he added.

However, while confirming the cloning of monkeys is a great step, experts say it is still far from human cloning.

"This is a step forward in that cloned animals have been produced but the animals from the adult cells did not survive," said Ritchie, the British scientist on the team that cloned Dolly the sheep. "So there is still some way to go before these experiments are equivalent to Dolly."

"The technological level of the sheep has not yet been reached, but I am sure that a big step has already been taken," said Kiselyov, the Russian biologist.

"The study itself is very impressive technically. From reading the paper it appears to have been performed carefully and robustly," said Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at Britain's University of Kent.

"One concern however is that the clones made from adult fibroblast cells did not survive more than a few days. If this work continues, the reasons for this loss need to be investigated more thoroughly," he said. (Xinhua)

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(Editor: CHEN Na)

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