For the first time, researchers have succeeded in cloning a primate species so close to humans—the baby was “born” healthy and lived for more than two years.
More than a quarter of a century has passed since Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned, and now scientists are announcing a new breakthrough: they have finally managed to successfully clone a species known for its closeness to humans – the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), writes the Daily Mail.
Chinese researchers say they used somatic cells from rhesus monkeys – animal cells different from sperm and eggs – in their experiment. As a result, they were able to create a genetically identical copy. It is known that the clone was completely “healthy” and lived after his birth in Beijing for more than two years.
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The study was conducted by Qiang Sun and colleagues at the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The team notes that the rhesus monkey clone was created using a technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). However, experts still rule out using this method for human cloning: too many ethical and safety issues remain to be resolved.
Note that the rhesus macaque is of particular interest to researchers, since this species of primate is anatomically and physiologically close to humans. In addition, rhesus monkeys are also widely used in human health research.
The team said they were surprised that more rhesus monkeys had not previously been cloned using somatic cell nuclear transfer. That’s why they decided to fix it and now announce the successful completion of the experiment. As a result, the study authors presented a successful strategy for cloning primates.
The SCNT method uses a somatic cell, such as a skin cell, whose DNA is then transferred into a nucleus-removed egg. It is known that somatic cells contain genetic information about how the body works, but, alas, they cannot give rise to a new organism. However, this problem is solved by transferring the DNA of the somatic cell into the egg. If successful, the process will result in a complete reprogramming of the genetic material in the nucleus, allowing the egg to begin dividing and forming a cloned embryo.
It is this method that has previously led to the successful cloning of various mammals, including Dolly the sheep in 1996. In 2017, this method was used to create cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicleis). By the way, the cloning of the rhesus monkey was carried out by the same company that conducted the 2017 study.
At the same time, the cloning efficiency of most mammalian species is still extremely low, and is also associated with high mortality in the womb or shortly after birth. For example, a previous attempt to clone a rhesus monkey was made back in 1997, but failed – the clone died 12 hours after birth.
In the new experiment, the scientists were successful, but out of 113 initial embryos, only one survived – in simple words, the success rate was less than 1%. According to Dr. Luis Montoliu, an expert at Spain’s National Center for Biotechnology, who was not involved in the study, it is “extremely difficult” to achieve success in such experiments.
According to the scientist, the new study demonstrates two things: firstly, primates can indeed be cloned, and secondly, it is extremely difficult to achieve success in such experiments with such low efficiency. All this leads to only one conclusion: human cloning is excluded at this stage.
Previously Focus wrote that scientists told how realistic it is to create a copy of yourself.