Chinese scientists have published in Cell that they have managed to clone two healthy long-tailed macaque monkeys with the cells of another macaque, using the same technique used in his day with the sheep Dolly.
The two clones, born 51 and 49 days ago, were created from the cells of a fetus. Until now, it was not possible to make the procedure work using adult macaque cells. Now that primates have already been cloned, the technique is closer to humans.
Zhen Liu He has spent three years optimizing the Dolly recipe for primates. Called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the technique involves fusing a somatic cell (which means anything other than sperm or egg) with an egg whose nucleus has been removed.
An hour or two later he used two chemicals to fertilize the egg (no sperm are needed), stimulating it to become an embryo. As the egg divides and divides, the resulting embryo is a genetic copy of the animal from which the somatic cell comes. If a surrogate mother is transplanted, she becomes a fetus and, if all goes well, a newborn.
The team of researchers states that their progress could one day be used to produce genetically identical monkeys for biomedical research. Most laboratory animals used to study diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer's, are highly inbred mice. But mice don't get all human diseases or don't get them the same way people do.
Until now, "no one was able to produce live young" through the cloning of primates, has declined Shoukhrat Mitalipov, from the Oregon University of Science and Health, who in 2013 also used the Dolly technique to create human embryos (technically, blastocysts) of the 8-month-old cells.