Circadian rhythm disorders – or conditions in which a human’s sleep times are out of alignment and causes problems sleeping at normal times – are often linked to depression, insomnia and Alzheimer’s. But a team of Shanghai-based scientists claim to have cloned a gene-edited monkey in order to further research the effects of circadian disorders on human well-being. The official China Daily said the clones would pave the way for more research into such problems in humans, which have become a major mental health concern.
The monkeys were cloned using the same technique that produced Dolly the Sheep in 1996.
On Thursday, the Xinhua news agency confirmed the breakthrough, which has seen the first time multiple clones have been produced from a gene-edited macaque.
The cloning took place in order to help bio-medical research.
A gene-edited monkey most prone to suffering circadian disorders was selected as a donor.
Citing Chinese journal National Science Review, Xinhua reported the donor’s fibroblasts – the biological cells that produce the structural framework of an animal’s cells – were then used to clone five new monkeys
The clones were born at the Institute of Neuroscience at the China Academy of Sciences in Shanghai.
The five cloned monkeys reportedly show signs of “negative behaviour” such as sleeping disorders.
The clones also displayed elevated levels of anxiety, as well as “schizophrenia-like behaviours”.
The Xinhua news agency said the biomedical programme – supervised by the institute’s ethics panel – was in line with international ethical standards for animal research.
The research is designed to help test drugs that could treat wide range of human conditions.
But the news follows recent controversy over gene-edited human babies – raising questions over biomedical ethics.
According to a paper published in the British journal Nature in 20172, Chinese scientists were the first to carry out gene editing on human embryos in 2015,
A billionaire Chinese-scientist claimed he had made the world’s first gene-edited human baby in November 2018.
The unauthorised experiment was widely criticised as creating “mutant babies” and raised questions on “lax regulatory controls” and ethical standards in biomedical practices.
He Jiankui of Southern University of Science and Technology Shenzhen, China, used gene editing tool CRISPR to create “genetically modified” human babies by eliminating CCR5 to make the offspring resistant to HIV, smallpox and cholera.
But in January this year, it was reported that the Mr He could face the death penalty after facing corruption charges for gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes.