China clones five gene-edited monkeys for human disease research

26 January, 2019, 01:03 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Chinese scientists clone five gene-edited monkeys

Dr Qiang Sun, director of ION's Non-human Primate Research Facility, said: 'Our approach is to perform gene-editing in fertilised embryos to first generate a group of gene-edited monkeys, and then select one monkey that exhibits correct gene editing and most severe disease phenotypes as the donor monkey for cloning.

He provoked global outcry last November when he revealed that he had used the gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9 to modify human embryos in an effort to make them resistant to HIV; the embryos were then implanted into a woman and produced twin girls, Nana and Lulu, in November.

This multiple clones made from a gene-edited monkey for biomedical research marks it as the first ever achievement and the team wants to make more macaque clones carrying disease-causing gene mutations, reported The Sun.

More importantly, they all carry a copy of one specific gene - a version of BMAL1 that had been altered in the donor using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology.

They went on to clone five macaques from that individual, and found that the new monkeys - born over the past six months - show signs of mental problems associated with sleep disorders including depression, anxiety and behaviours linked to schizophrenia. It is very disturbing that more such gene edited monkey clones will be produced for the sole goal of further experiments, even if they said this may reduce the number of monkeys used for future experiments.

"Our BMAL1 knock-out monkeys thus could be used to study the disease pathogenesis as well as therapeutic treatments".

A staff member feeds the cloned monkeys.

In an interview with the Beijing Youth Daily, Shao Feng from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said the whole incident would need to be investigated thoroughly.

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A preliminary investigation has concluded that rogue geneticist He Jiankui broke regulations to create the world's first gene-edited babies.

To create the monkey clones, Chinese researchers removed the nucleus from a monkey egg cell.

The embryo is implanted into the womb of a surrogate monkey that eventually give birth to the clones.

But investigators in the southern province of Guangdong determined He organized and handled funding for the experiment without outside assistance in violation of national guidelines, the Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

Last year, China's Institute of Neuroscience reported the successful reproduction of two long-tailed macaques using somatic cell nucleus transfer, the same process that produced the world-famous Dolly the Sheep in 1995.

He said this could also reduce the overall numbers of healthy macaques that are subjected to experiments around the world, in a boost for animal welfare.

In the future, the team plans would focus on cloning monkey models with different brain diseases.

"This behavior seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and overseas", the report said.

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