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Monkey clones are here, are human clones close behind?

January 25, 2018

Researchers have cloned two healthy monkeys, bringing science an important step closer to being able to do the same with humans. Not that they will.

Since the cloned sheep Dolly was born in 1996, scientists have cloned nearly two dozen kinds of mammals, including dogs, cats, pigs, cows and polo ponies, and have also created human embryos with this method. But until now, they have been unable to make babies this way in primates, the category that includes monkeys, apes and people.

The female baby monkeys, about 7 and 8 weeks old, are named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.

The feat means humans can be cloned. Mainstream scientists generally oppose making human babies by cloning. The cloned monkeys could be used in medical research.

The Chinese researchers said cloning of fetal cells could be combined with gene editing techniques to produce large numbers of monkeys with certain genetic defects that cause disease in people. The animals could then be used to study such diseases and test treatments. The researchers said their initial targets will be Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Human cloning might be possible someday, but “I don’t think it should be pursued,” said researcher Dieter Egli of Columbia University. “I can’t think of a strong benefit.”

At the moment, because of safety concerns, federal regulators in the U.S. would not allow making a human baby by cloning, and international scientific groups also oppose it, said biomedical ethics expert Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Watch: Monkeys cloned using same method as Dolly