For the first time, scientists have created dozens of cloned embryos from adult primates. But what are the implications of this technical breakthrough for the future of mankind?
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 12 November 2007
Attempts to clone human embryos for research have been dogged by technical problems and controversies over fraudulent research and questionable ethics. But the new technique promises to revolutionise the efficiency by which scientists can turn human eggs into cloned embryos.
It is the first time that scientists have been able to create viable cloned embryos from an adult primate – in this case a 10-year-old male rhesus macaque monkey – and they are scheduled to report their findings later this month.
The scientists will also demonstrate that they have been able to extract stem cells from some of the cloned embryos and that they have managed to encourage these embryonic cells to develop in the laboratory into mature heart cells and brain neurons.
Scientists who know of the research said it was the breakthrough that they had all been waiting for because, until now, there was a growing feeling that there might be some insuperable barrier to creating cloned embryos from adult primates – including humans.