Sci-Fi Borderline Ethical Issues: China First to Clone Monkeys
Eight and six weeks ago, two genetically identical long-tailed macaques named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong were born in Shanghai’s research laboratory, through cloning referred to as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
First, the egg's nucleus -- central section of the cell containing the fundamental key genetic data -- is removed and subsequently replaced by the nucleus from a separate cell deriving from a second donor. In turn, this new cell then is then electrically stimulated into developing into an embryo, later transplanted into a surrogate mother.
Nuclear cell cloning, a genetic technique replicating DNA genomes, lies behind the groundbreaking cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996. This was a significant step forward for improving scientific research, revolutionizing medicine, and broadening the limits of our imagination.
Ever since Dolly was born, scientists have successfully used SCNT to clone over 20 other species such cows, pigs, dogs, rabbits, rats and mice. However, never before had primates successfully been cloned in this manner, leading scientists to doubt whether they might be resistant to the process.
“Humans are primates. So (for) the cloning of primate species, including humans, the technical barrier is now broken,” claims Muming Poo, a surveillant of the project.
When questioned on what this discovery meant and how it might be used in the field of science, M. Poo replied,“the reason ... we broke this barrier is to produce animal models that are useful for medicine, for human health. There is no intention to apply this method to humans.” Moreover, Poo added that "they could be used to test new drugs for a range of diseases before clinical use," making this new success an asset for future cure research.
However, when it comes to primate cloning, for some the discovery is somewhat controversial, ethically speaking. Sharing 96 percent of DNA with humans, discovering a way to successfully clone this species is a development equipped with much baggage of controversy and ethical speculations.
Albeit revolutionary for some parties such as the medical department, others, namely religious forces like the Vatican expressed much discomfort towards the subject.
In the realm of the Vatican, Mgr Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life bitterly commented that "not everything that is possible is right," when discussing the new discovery in question.
The Vatican's pointman on bioethics then added, "we must always consider the effects of our interventions on the ecosystem and weigh the risk of making mistakes in the management of new know-how which may in the future lead us to interventions on the human body". And finally, "I wonder whether it really leads to solutions. I rather think that the result attained is only an affirmation of self," ending his response on a cynical critique of the direction of humanity as a whole.