Chinese scientists have cloned two monkeys using the same technique that produced Dolly the sheep two decades ago.
The scientists have been accused of paving the way to living human clones after creating two genetically identical monkeys.
Two identical long-tailed macaques called Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born eight and six weeks ago, making them the first primates, the order of mammals that includes monkeys, apes and humans, to be cloned from a non-embryonic cell.
Previously scientists have managed to ‘clone’ primates by splitting an embryo in half but the process was essentially artificial twinning rather than true cloning.
The BBC reports: Scientists say populations of monkeys that are genetically identical will be useful for research into human diseases.
But critics say the work raises ethical concerns by bringing the world closer to human cloning.
Qiang Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience said the cloned monkeys will be useful as a model for studying diseases with a genetic basis, including some cancers, metabolic and immune disorders.
“There are a lot of questions about primate biology that can be studied by having this additional model,” he said.
Zhong Zhong was born eight weeks ago and Hua Hua six weeks ago. They are named after the Mandarin term for the Chinese nation and people.