March 5, 2024

US researchers clone monkeys

Macaque monkey

Using a technique developed by the South Korean team which cloned the first human embryos, University of Pittsburgh scientists have cloned macaque monkeys. Although the embryos grew to the blastocyst stage of about 200 cells, the scientists did not manage to obtain embryonic stem cells. In previous attempts the clones died at the 16-cell stage.

The Korean technique involves gently squeezing an egg until the nucleus is squished out. The American team took this one step further and placed genetic material from the skin cell of an unrelated monkey in the enucleated egg — an advance on the South Korean technique which used a cumulus cell from the surface of the same egg.

This experiment is an index of the gathering speed of cloning. Only a year and a half ago the lead researcher, Dr Gerald Schatten, mused in the journal Science that cloning primates might be impossible because of a fundamental molecular obstacle. He is delighted to have proved himself wrong.