Chinese researchers have performed a feat that was previously impossible: they have cloned two healthy monkeys. Since Dolly, the infamous sheep, was cloned over 20 years ago, scientists have been successful at cloning other mammals, “including dogs, cats, pigs, cows and polo ponies” — and even human embryos, according to Winona Daily News. But until now, no one has been able to clone primates, such as monkeys, apes, and humans. This achievement means that science is one step closer to being able to clone people — something that is generally opposed in the medical community because of obvious ethical concerns.
The two monkeys, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, are about 2 months old, and could be used in medical research. The Chinese researchers say that the “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.” As a result, they hope to be able to study Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Using the monkeys in such medical research, of course, refocuses the controversy on the issue animal rights and cruelty. The innocent primates will undoubtedly endure painful procedures and tests in the name of medical research.
While scientists in the field acknowledge that we are nearing a time when we will be able to make human babies using cloning, it is not legal in the United States, and it is opposed around the globe.