Scientists clone monkey embryo20th November 2007
Scientists in the United States have successfully cloned embryos from an adult monkey, potentially bringing human cloning one step closer.
According to a report in the journal Nature, a team in the US created dozens of cloned embryos from a 10 year-old male macaque monkey.
The breakthrough could pave the way for human embryo cloning, which could lead to the cultivation of healthy tissues used to treat diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's which will be accepted by the body's immune system, because they are made by cloning cells of the patient needing them.
In this process, the group extracted stem cells from some of the cloned monkey embryos, persuading them to develop into mature heart and nerve cells in the laboratory.
Stem-cell scientist Robin Lovell-Badge of the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill said the work was potentially significant, and might set to rest worries that primates might prove difficult to clone.
In cloning to obtain stem cells, DNA from an adult animal is inserted into an unfertilized egg that has had its own genetic material removed. The egg is then encouraged to grow into an early embryo, from which stem cells can be extracted.
Stem cells are master cells, obtained from early-stage human embryos, with potential to develop into any of the body's tissue types.
It is hoped that they could form the basis for tailor-made treatments and transplants in patients with degenerative conditions.
The technique used to clone the macaque monkey embryos is known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT; the same basic process used to create Dolly the sheep -- the first mammal cloned from an adult.
However, the field suffered a blow to credibility when it emerged that cloned human embryos allegedly produced by a South Korean team were fabricated by the study's lead author, Hwang Woo-suk.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov, the lead author of the US team, has pioneered a way of handling the donor eggs during the cloning process which removes the risk of damage from dyes or ultra-violet light used to expose DNA for removal.
Mitalipov and his colleagues used an illumination technique called Oosight, which uses polarised light to visualise microscopic cells in real time.
The survival rate for developing clones was much higher with the use of this new technique.
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