In a major breakthrough, Chinese scientists have successfully cloned monkeys using the same technique that produced Dolly, the sheep two decades ago in Scotland.
The Chinese endeavour, experts feel have broken a technical barrier that could open the door to human cloning.
According to reports, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, the two identical long-tailed macaques, were born eight and six weeks ago.
They are the first primates – the order of mammals that includes monkeys, apes and humans – to be cloned from a non-embryonic cell.
It was achieved through a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which involves transferring the nucleus of a cell, which includes its DNA, into an egg which has had its nucleus removed, according to ABC news.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai said their work should be a boon to medical research by making it possible to study diseases like cancer.
A visibly lelated Muming Poo who helped supervise the programme at the institute said, “Humans are also primates. So for the cloning of primate species, including humans, the technical barrier is now broken,” the report added.
Genetically identical animals are useful in research because confounding factors caused by genetic variability in non-cloned animals can complicate experiments.
They could be used to test new drugs for a range of diseases before clinical use.
The two new born monkeys are now being bottle-fed and are growing normally.
The researchers said they expect more macaque clones to be born over the coming months.