CLOSINGS: View Closings

Monkey see, monkey 2: Scientists clone monkeys using technique that created Dolly the sheep

For the first time, scientists say they created cloned primates using the same complicated cloning technique that mad...

Posted: Jan 24, 2018 5:35 PM
Updated: Jan 24, 2018 5:35 PM

For the first time, scientists say they created cloned primates using the same complicated cloning technique that made Dolly the sheep in 1996.

Shanghai scientists created two genetically identical and adorable long-tailed macaques. The monkeys are named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, a version of the Chinese adjective Zhonghua which means the "Chinese nation" or "people."

Shanghai scientists created cloned monkeys Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua more than a month ago

The researchers enhanced the technique called somatic cell transfer

The research was published in the journal Cell on Wednesday.

These two are not the first primates to be cloned. Scientists in 1999 created Tetra, a rhesus monkey, but used what researchers consider a simpler cloning method that produces a more limited number of off spring. In Tetra's case, scientists split the embryos, much like what happens naturally when identical twins develop.

In the case of Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, researchers used modern technology developed only in the last couple of years to enhance the technique used to clone Dolly, which is called somatic cell transfer, or SCNT. This is where scientists reconstruct an unfertilized egg. The researchers remove the egg's nucleus -- the part of the cell that contains most of its genetic information-- and replace it with the nucleus from another cell. It's then stimulated to develop into an embryo, which is transplanted into a surrogate mother. That same cell cluster can make more genetically matched animals.

When scientists made Dolly the sheep, years after she was born they used the same cell cluster to make four other sheep clones.

How it worked

The SCNT technique has worked to create about 20 different animals including frogs, mice, rabbits, pigs, cows and even dogs, but there have been "numerous attempts to clone non-human primate species, but they all failed," said Mumming Poo, an author on the paper. Scientists long thought something in a monkey's genes made the technique unsuccessful. The success of Poo's team came from several factors, he said.

The team tweaked the SCNT procedure using new technology that helped with the nucleus transfer and the fusion of cells. The team spent three years perfecting the delicate procedure. Speed while performing the procedure helped, they learned, and scientists discovered clones created out of cells from fetal tissue did better than when they used adult cells.

"By optimizing the method, we obtained 79 well-developed embryos and implanted them in 21 female monkey surrogates," Poo said. That resulted in six pregnancies and the births of the two monkeys in late 2017. They hope more monkey babies will be born soon from these embryos.

Scientists unaffiliated with the experiment say the limited success rate of the procedure suggests more work is needed before this practice becomes common. "While they succeeded in obtaining cloned macaques, the numbers are too low to make many conclusions, except that it remains a very inefficient and hazardous procedure," said Robin Lovell-Badge, an embryologist and head of the Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the Francis Crick Institute.

"You do have to start with proof of principle," said Jennifer Barfield, an assistant professor in biomedical sciences at Colorado State University, about the low number of births. She is not affiliated with the new study, but is working on reproductive technology research involving buffalo. She found the work interesting and important, "particularly for primates, where success hasn't been that easy to come by."

New ethical questions

The birth of these clones also brings up ethical issues. Humans are in the primate family. With this birth, these scientists have broken a barrier and that means the technique could, in theory, be applied to humans. The authors of the paper say they have no intention of trying and they believe their results should spark a wider discussion about the laws and regulations the world needs to regulate cloning.

Darren Griffin, a professor of genetics at the University of Kent, said "careful consideration now needs to be given to the ethical framework under which such experiments can, and should, operate." He noted, critics will evoke, "the slippery slope argument of this being one step closer to human cloning." However, Griffin said he thinks the benefits of this approach are clear and "cautious optimism is my personal response to this study. The study itself is very impressive technically."

The authors of this experiment say they will continue working to improve the SCNT approach. They also plan to watch how Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua develop physically and mentally.

They ultimately hope the creation of these clones helps researchers better understand human disease. Poo said that the Chinese government intends to dramatically increase the size of the lab and the project. He predicts within five years there should be 20 to 30 more facilities creating monkey clones. Researchers want to use additional clones to study genetic diseases such as autism, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

"Nonhuman primate research remains vital to the continuation of medical research and advances in human health," said James Bourne, an associate professor and National Health and Medical Research Council senior fellow at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University, who is not affiliated with this study. "The recent description of a protocol to clone macaque monkeys by somatic cell nuclear transfer could be an important tool in medical research for understanding disease in a species genetically more comparable to humans."

The future for Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong

Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong are being bottle fed and appear to be developing normally, scientists say. They get regular physical check ups and when they are a little older, scientists will study their mental health to see if there are any problems.

"The two monkeys are very active and healthy, they progress very rapidly like human babies," author Qiang Sun said. "Every other day, they seem more active and their motor system is much more developed and (there are) no signs of abnormality."

Video from the lab of the active pair shows one monkey likes to suck its thumb. One climbs over its stuffed Hello Kitty doll attempting to figure out how to get through the top of its incubator. The other monkey seems curious about the camera documenting its every move -- that is, until it's distracted by its sibling jumping on its back.

In other words, the clones seem to be up to typical monkey business.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
Rochester
Clear
19° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 19°
Mason City
Clear
15° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 15°
Albert Lea
Clear
18° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 18°
Austin
Clear
19° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 19°
Charles City
Clear
18° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 18°
Colder Conditions To Start The Workweek
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Aaron's Monday Evening Forecast

Image

Improper disposal of single-use face masks

Image

Dr. McDonough weighs in with vaccine concerns

Image

Albert Lea residents seek shelter after evacuation due to shooting

Image

City moves forward with new plan for Mayo Civic Center

Image

Pandemic impact on Veterans

Image

Wreath Auction for NAMI

Image

Post-Thanksgiving testing rush expected

Image

Law Enforcement tactics for active shooters

Image

Holiday Budget advice

Community Events