\With the same approach used to clone Dolly the sheep back in 1996, a Chinese Academy of Sciences team of researchers has cloned two monkeys, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.
"The barrier of cloning primate species is now overcome," author Muming Poo from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai said during a conference call, according to the Associated Press.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer has been used to create clones of various species, like dogs and pigs, Agence France Press notes, though cloning primates in this way has been tricky. Other approaches like embryo splitting have been more successful, New Scientist adds.
As they write in Cell this week, Poo and his colleagues attribute their success in cloning the macaque monkeys, Macaca fascicularis, to their optimization of the somatic cell nuclear transfer protocol, use of fetal cell nuclei, and treatment with epigenetic modifiers. Their approach led to 79 implanted embryos, and two live, healthy baby monkeys.
Sun and colleagues note that cloned monkeys could be a useful research resource. "You can produce cloned monkeys with the same genetic background except the gene you manipulated," senior author Qiang Sun from the Chinese Academy of Sciences says in a statement.
However, the Francis Crick institute's Robin Lovell-Badge tells the Guardian that because SCNT is so inefficient and dangerous, its use might not be justified.
Poo also notes that the work also indicates that cloning humans might be possible, but he adds, according to Reuters, that there's "no intention to apply this method to humans."
"I don't think it should be pursued," adds Columbia University's Dieter Egli about cloning adult humans at the AP. "I can't think of a strong benefit."