first_imgStay on target CRISPR-Modified Babies Cursed With Short LifespanAntidote to Deadly Box Jellyfish Venom Discovered In 1996, scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute successfully cloned a female domestic sheep using nuclear transfer.More than 20 years later, the first primate clones made by somatic cell nuclear transfer were born. And they’re adorable.Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, genetically identical long-tailed macaques, were hatched six and eight weeks ago, respectively, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Neuroscience (ION).Named after the adjective “Zhōnghuá,” which refers to the Chinese nation or people, the wee siblings help usher in a new era of research with customizable populations of genetically uniform monkeys.“There are a lot of questions about primate biology that can be studied by having this additional model,” lead researcher Sun Qiang, director of the Non-human Primate Facility at ION, said in a statement.“This will generate real models,” he continued. “Not just for genetically based brain diseases, but also cancer [and] immune or metabolic disorders, and allow us to test the efficacy of the drugs for these conditions before clinical use.”The technical milestone was published this week in the journal Cell.Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are not the first primate clones. That honor goes to Tetra, a rhesus monkey made in 1999 using the simpler method of embryo splitting (which is how human twins are formed).The more complex somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)—used nearly 22 years ago to create Dolly the sheep—requires researchers to remove the nucleus from an egg cell and replace it with another nucleus from differentiated body cells. The reconstructed egg then develops into a clone of whatever donated the replacement nucleus.“The SCNT procedure is rather delicate, so the faster you do it the less damage to the egg you have,” according to project supervisor Muming Poo, director of the Academy’s Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology. “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.”Unlike other mammals like mice or dogs, monkey cells have proven resistant to SCNT. Until Sun & Co. introduced epigenetic modulators, which turn on or off the genes that inhibit embryo development.Success also hinged on the age of donor cells: Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are clones of the same macaque fetal fibroblasts; cells from adult primates resulted in death only a few hours after birth.“We tried several different methods but only one worked,” Sun said. “There was much failure before we found a way to successfully clone a monkey.”Researchers plan to continue improving their technique, while monitoring Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua (who may have more cloned macaque friends soon!) for physical and intellectual development. Currently bottle fed, the babies are growing normally compared to others their age.(I’ve inquired about more photos/videos of the furry munchkins. Because who doesn’t want to see more of those wide-eyed babes?)center_img Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img