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>> These two long tailed macaques are completely genetically identical. The first primates ever cloned using the same technique that produced Dolly the sheep two decades ago. And it raises an uneasy ethical issue, as Reuters Ben Hirschler explains.>> Macaque monkeys are primates and homo sapiens is a primate.
So technically we have overcome a key barrier now and, in theory, there's no reason why this technique shouldn't be applied to humans. The question is the ethics.>> There is broad international consensus that cloning humans is wrong. And the researcher who supervised this cloning program said there's no intention for the technique to be used on our species.
> In principle, cloning humans is possible. It probably can be realized, but no one will do it, and we certainly won't do it either. The two monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were created through a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer. That involves transferring the nucleus of a cell, which includes its DNA, into an egg which has had its nucleus removed.
Since the technique was used to create Dolly the sheep in 1996, scientists have cloned more than 20 other species, including cows, pigs, dogs, rabbits, rats, and mice. But cloning primates has, until now, always failed. The Chinese team succeeded by using modulators to turn on or off certain genes that were inhabiting embryo development.
They say their work is a boon for medical research, making it possible to study diseases in populations of genetically uniform monkeys.>> If you've got identical animals, it's much easier to strip out any confounding factors when you're testing new drugs for cancer or brain diseases or other serious conditions.
>> That said, the technique has had an extremely low success rate. It took 127 eggs to produce the two live births. But that's not stopping the Chinese researchers. They say they're expecting more macaque clones to be born in the coming months.