Scientists in China have become the first to successfully clone primates using the same method that was used to create Dolly the sheep.
The scientific breakthroughs that have taken place in recent years and are on the cusp of happening in the not so distant future are simply breathtaking. Acts and experiments that were once elements of science fiction are becoming a part of our everyday lives and it really makes you wonder what is coming next.
One breakthrough in particular that it feels like we haven't heard much about for a while now is the world of cloning. In 1996, a mammal was successfully cloned using a method known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) for the first time. The product was a sheep named Dolly who unsurprisingly became known the world over. The SCNT process involves scientists taking DNA and inserting it into egg cells that have had their DNA removed.
It hasn't merely been 22 years of nothing since then when it comes to the world of cloning. Since then, animals such as dogs, cows, and pigs among others have been successfully cloned using the SCNT method. As reported by the Daily Mail the groundbreaking news coming out of China this week is that they have successfully used that method to clone primates for the first time, two monkeys named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.
The reason this breakthrough, in particular, is more newsworthy than any other animal that has been cloned to date is how similar monkeys are to humans. The SCNT method being used to successfully clone primates points towards us maybe being one step closer to one-day cloning human beings. That raises a lot of ethical problems of course and for the time being, the good news is that scientists can use this latest development to help fight things such as cancer and genetically based brain diseases.
While Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are the first monkeys to be cloned using the SCNT method, they don't have the honor of being the first primate cloned ever. That title belongs to Tetra the rhesus monkey who was cloned in 1999 using embryo splitting, a much simpler method than SCNT. Another big step forward for science, but one that will raise some concern when it comes to the ethical issues that surround cloning.