Chinese scientists have announced a new world first. They have successfully cloned primates using somatic cell nucleus transfer (SCNT) – the cloning technique that gave us the first ever cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, back in 1996.
The two new arrivals are a pair of genetically identical long-tailed macaques, born at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai.
Their names are Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, born eight and six weeks ago, respectively.
They’re not the first primates ever to be cloned – that honour goes to Tetra, a rhesus monkey cloned in 1999 in Oregon using the embryo-splitting method. This cloning technique is easier to accomplish, but has limitations not borne by SCNT.
Now the Chinese team have managed to tweak the advanced SCNT technique to finally work in primates – and the road wasn’t easy.
“We tried several different methods, but only one worked,” said senior author Qiang Sun. “There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey.”