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The identical long-tailed macaques, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were born eight and six weeks ago, respectively, at a lab in Shanghai and are growing normally, according to the researchers. The experiment’s results were published in the journal Cell on January 24.
Since Dolly was cloned at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh 20 years ago, many mammals – including cattle, rats, cats, mice and pigs – have been cloned using the same technique, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
But this was the first time SCNT was used to successfully clone non-human primates, prompting ethical concerns. The researchers in China say they followed the strict international guidelines for animal research set by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and are aware of the ethical implications of their work. Regardless, Professor Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute, London, said: “The work in this paper is not a stepping-stone to establishing methods for obtaining live born human clones”.
Despite the ethical debate, proponents say that genetically-identical primate populations could further research into human diseases.
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