In a remarkable scientific achievement two monkeys have become the first ever primates to be cloned.
A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science used the same techniques that created Dolly the sheep, the first ever animal cloned.
However, cloning monkeys is a whole different kettle of fish and brings us ever closer to the prospect of cloned human beings.
The team behind the cloning have warned there are certainly both ethical and legal questions that will need to be answered about research into human cloning and a good reason to do so would have to be given.
The monkeys, which are two identical long-tailed macaques called Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, were born eight and six weeks ago at a Chinese laboratory.
They have the exact same genetic DNA and are identical in every way.
Strictly other primates before them have been cloned but these are the first to be made by using the single cell nuclear transfer technique.
This technique sees a cell nucleus with its DNA being transferred to a donated egg cell that then forms an embryo.
Previous clones have been made by splitting embryos which mirrors what happens when twins are born and always produces four offspring.
79 attempts were made before the team found success with these two monkeys.
You can meet Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua in the video below:
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Chinese scientist Qiang Sun, Director of the Nonhuman Primate Research Facility at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience, led the team that produced the research published in the journal Cell.
You can produce cloned monkeys with the same genetic background except the gene you manipulated
This will generate real models not just for genetically based brain diseases, but also cancer, immune or metabolic disorders and allow us to test the efficacy of the drugs for these conditions before clinical use.
We tried several different methods, but only one worked. There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey.
The news has led to fears about where it could lead although the scientists stress that they worked under strict international codes.
Co-author Muming Poo added:
We are very aware that future research using non-human primates anywhere in the world depends on scientists following very strict ethical standards.
The SCNT procedure is rather delicate, so the faster you do it, the less damage to the egg you have, and Dr. Liu has a green thumb for doing this.
It takes a lot of practice. Not everybody can do the enucleation and cell fusion process quickly and precisely, and it is likely that the optimization of transfer procedure greatly helped us to achieve this success.
Scientists will now be watching these monkeys closely to see how they develop.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.