China clones gene-edited monkeys to aid disorder research

January 24, 2019
The Shanghai institute made news in January 2018 by announcing researchers had cloned the first two monkeys using a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, the same method used to produce the celebrated sheep "Dolly" more than 20 years ago 

Chinese scientists announced Thursday they had cloned five monkeys from a single animal that was genetically engineered to have a sleep disorder, saying it could aid research into human psychological problems.

The claim, detailed in two reports published in a Chinese science journal, is the latest in a series of biomedical advances in the country, some of which have fuelled medical ethics debates.

Most recently a Chinese scientist claimed last year he had altered the DNA of babies to make them HIV-proof.

A research team from the Institute of Neuroscience at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai said it had altered the genes of a macaque to give it circadian rhythm disorder, in which the body's "clock" is out of sync with normal sleep times.

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.

The findings, published Thursday in the English-language journal National Science Review, were hailed as a world first by Chinese media.

The report's authors said the findings could aid research into human psychological illnesses because scientists would be able to create animals with specific disorders.

Poo Muming, the director of the neuroscience institute and the study's co-author, told state media the research team would seek to clone more monkeys with different brain in hopes that future experiments on them could yield new drugs or treatment.

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.

The same Shanghai institute previously made news in January 2018 by announcing researchers had cloned the first two monkeys using a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The method was the same used to produce the celebrated sheep "Dolly" more than 20 years ago.

Other species were subsequently cloned via the method over the years but primates had until last year proven difficult to clone and the team's achievement was hailed as a breakthrough.

But such advancements often stir controversy.

Chinese researcher He Jiankui shocked the after revealing that he had successfully gene-edited twin girls born in November to prevent them from contracting HIV.

He now faces a and has been dismissed from his position at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen.

Explore further: Gene-edited disease monkeys cloned in China

More information: Qiu, P. et al: "BMAL1 knockout macaque monkeys display reduced sleep and psychiatric disorders". National Science Review. DOI: 10.1093/nsr/nwz002 , https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/nsr/nwz002

Liu, Z. et al. "Cloning of a gene-edited macaque monkey by somatic cell nuclear transfer ". National Science Review. DOI: 10.1093/nsr/nwz003 , https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/nsr/nwz003

Related Stories

Gene-edited disease monkeys cloned in China

January 23, 2019

The first cohort of five gene-edited monkey clones made from fibroblasts of a monkey with disease phenotypes were born recently at the Institute of Neuroscience (ION) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Shanghai. ...

Second woman carrying gene-edited baby in China: state media

January 21, 2019

A researcher who claimed to have created the world's first genetically-edited babies will face a Chinese police investigation, state media said Monday, as authorities confirmed that a second woman fell pregnant during the ...

China's second gene-edited foetus is 12-14 weeks old: scientist

January 22, 2019

The second woman carrying a gene-edited foetus in China could now be 12 to 14 weeks into her pregnancy, according to a US physician in close contact with the researcher who claimed to have created the world's first genetically-modified ...

Gene-edited babies and cloned monkeys: China tests bioethics

November 27, 2018

A Chinese scientist's claim that he created the world's first genetically-edited babies has shone a spotlight on what critics say are lax regulatory controls and ethical standards behind a series of headline-grabbing biomedical ...

Recommended for you

How our plants have turned into thieves to survive

February 18, 2019

Scientists have discovered that grasses are able to short cut evolution by taking genes from their neighbours. The findings suggest wild grasses are naturally genetically modifying themselves to gain a competitive advantage.

Great white shark genome decoded

February 18, 2019

The great white shark is one of the most recognized marine creatures on Earth, generating widespread public fascination and media attention, including spawning one of the most successful movies in Hollywood history. This ...

Light-based production of drug-discovery molecules

February 18, 2019

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells are widely studied for the conversion of solar energy into chemical fuels. They use photocathodes and photoanodes to "split" water into hydrogen and oxygen respectively. PEC cells can work ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.