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Primates to the rescue?

Using the same cloning technique used to clone Dolly the sheep 20 years ago, Chinese scientists have successfully cloned two macaques named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, says an Institute of Neuroscience press release. The milestone is now being celebrated not for what the benefits could be, but rather that the cloning of primates was achieved. However, the implications of such an ability will most likely be felt around the world for its use to help find treatments and even cures for many diseases including neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's Disease.

Qiang Sun, Director of the Nonhuman Primate Research Facility at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience says, "There are a lot of questions about primate biology that can be studied by having this additional model. You can produce cloned monkeys with the same genetic background except the gene you manipulated. This will generate real models not just for genetically based brain diseases, but also cancer, immune or metabolic disorders, and allow us to test the efficacy of the drugs for these conditions before clinical use.”

Mu-ming Poo, a co-author on the study, who directs the Institute of Neuroscience of CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology said in a press conference to Bioworld and other news agencies said that neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease "will be a main target," as will the subgroup of autism-related diseases that has "a very clear genetic basis."

Chinese scientists will continue to improve on this particular technique of cloning primates and their lab follows very strict international guidelines for animal research set by the US National Institutes of Health and are encouraging the international scientific community to discuss what should or should not be acceptable practices for the cloning of non-human primates.

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