Almost exactly a year ago, the world met with Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, the first primates to be cloned using a technique that could theoretically produce an unlimited number of replicas.
Now a Team of Chinese Scientists Using the same technique to make five clones of another monkey, one of which has been genetically modified to have a disorder with a range of traumatic psychological side effects – and research is a frightening ethical minefield ,
The Technique Used To clone the monkeys, it is called somatic nuclear transmission. For this purpose, the nucleus of a donor egg is removed by one from the cell of another animal.
With Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, the scientists took their donor nucleus from the cells of fetal macaques.
However, this time researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences used the nucleus of a genetically modified monkey. In particular, they used CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the animal's BMAL1
According to the two papers published in the Journal of the Researchers National Science Review, the procedure worked.
The five newborn monkeys exhibited a "broad spectrum of circadian disorders," including decreased sleep, increased movement at night, schizophrenia-like behaviors, and signs of anxiety and depression – all appearing in a disconcerting video alongside research has been published.
Monkeys and Men
While the idea of deliberately exposing animals to the above-described mental stress is worrying, researchers believe that humanity can benefit from it.
"Disruption of the circadian rhythm can lead to many human diseases, including sleep disorders, diabetic mellitus, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases," said Hung-Chun Chang researcher in a press release. "Our BMAL1 knock-out monkeys could therefore be used to study disease development as well as therapeutic treatments."
There is also the possibility that cloning genetically modified animals actually reduces the number needed for research.
Due to the genetic background, a much smaller number of cloned monkeys carrying disease phenotypes may be sufficient for preclinical testing of the efficacy of therapeutics, "said Mu-ming Poo researcher in the news release.
At At the same time, the research raises a number of ethical questions.
On the one hand, there are the numerous unsuccessful attempts that preceded the births of these five monkeys – 65 surrogate mothers underwent embryo implantation, but this resulted in only 16 pregnancies (five pregnancies)  Then the question remains whether research findings could even be applied to humans – many animals do not.
"If I was on an ethics review panel, I would be very reluctant to approve [this research] because the Animals were incredibly damaged, "said bioethicist Carolyn Neuhaus ]" Me would expect the scientists who propose this research to have very good answers to very hard questions about their methods and the expected benefits of their research. "
READ MORE: Chinese scientists have genetically cloned for the first time altered primate [ Science Alert ]