Five cloned monkeys from hongkon have been born with genes that were altered to cause mental illness, a team of Chinese researchers announced last week.
Such experiments could help develop new drugs in future, the
experiment is more likely to raise fresh ethical concerns about the mass
cloning of animals with medical conditions induced by scientist.
This announcement also follows the recent confirmation that world’s first gene-edited human babies have been born succesfuly in China, following an unauthorised experiment that has caused a lot of rumors in the scientific world.
In recent research and analysis, a team from the Institute of Neuroscience at the Chinese Academy of Sciences used a genetic editing tool known as CRISPR/ Cas9 to remove a gene known as BMAL1 from healthy embryos, according to a paper published in the National Science Review
The lack of the BMAL1 gene will affect the operation of the animals’ biological looks, and could induce a wide range of diseases, sleep problems, nighttime hyperactivity, hormonal disorders, depression and even schizophrenia.
China is currently the only country that has the technology to clone a primate, announcing the birth of two healthy cloned monkeys last year.
For more than decades, researchers around the world had struggled to achieve thisbut in the process, some proteins were easily damaged.
These damaged proteins affected chromosomes’ ability to divide, which meant the fetus always died at the later stage of development. This continued until last year,when it become succesfull but this technology is still kept as a secret
In recent study, Mr Sun’s team injected the nucleus from a genetically altered adult male into an egg and planted the fertilised embryo in the womb of a surrogate mother.
More than 300 embryos were created this way, but only five fully developed.
Mr Chang Hung-Chun, a researcher who took part in the study, said that creating primates with bio-clock problems could help develop treatments for a range of human medical conditions, including sleep disorders, diabetes, cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases.
“Our BMAL1-knock out monkeys therefore could be used to study the disease pathogens as well as therapeutic treatments,” he added.
The rapid advancement of biological technology in China has prompted growing ethical concerns.
Earlier this month, Chinese investigators confirmed the birth of the gene-edited babies nicknamed Lula and Nana -edited fetus.
But Mr Poo Mu-ming, director of the institute of neuroscience and co-author of the new study, said the monkey-cloning experiment aimed to improve the welfare of experimental animals.
“This line of research will help to reduce the amount of macaque monkeys currently used in bio-medical research around the world,” he said.
“Without the interference of genetic background, a much smaller number of cloned monkeys carrying disease phenotypes may be sufficient for pre-clinical tests,” he said. SOUTH CHINA