For the first time, researchers have used the cloning method that produced Dolly the sheep to create two healthy monkeys, bringing science an important step closer to being able to do the same with humans, the AP reports. Since Dolly's birth in 1996, scientists have cloned nearly two dozen kinds of mammals and have also created human embryos with this method. But until now, they have been unable to make babies this way in primates, the category that includes monkeys, apes, and people. "The barrier of cloning primate species is now overcome," declared Muming Poo of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. He and colleagues announced their success with macaques in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Cell. The female baby monkeys, about 7 and 8 weeks old, are named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.
In principle, Poo said, the feat means humans can be cloned. But he said his team has no intention of doing that. Mainstream scientists generally oppose making human babies by cloning, and Poo said society would ban it for ethical reasons. Instead, he said, the goal is to create lots of genetically identical monkeys for use in medical research, where they would be particularly valuable because they are more like humans than other lab animals. The process is still very inefficient—it took 127 eggs to get the two babies — and so far it has succeeded only by starting with a monkey fetus. The scientists failed to produce healthy babies from an adult monkey, though they are still trying. Click here for the full story, including details on the technically challenging procedure used by Poo.