Chinese scientists have given birth to the country's first test-tube monkeys, which is believed to be the first step to engineer gene-modified monkeys.
Dr. Sun Qiang of the East China Normal University led the primate research group to create the seven macaques, a type of monkeys that are fond of eating crabs. Their experiments were published by the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
Closest among animals to physique, genetic nature and behavior of human beings, primate models are usually used for studying medical treatment for human diseases.
Under the state-financed program that focuses on the primate reproductive research and bio-engineering, Dr. Sun said, "Our next step is to bring about more test-tube monkeys and eventually make gene-modified monkeys benefiting for medical research."
Chinese scientists are now catching up with leading scientists in developed countries in engineering transgenic monkeys. American researchers have already produced the world's first gene-modified monkey, Andi. The scientific community has tried to use such monkeys to find new ways to treat diabetes, the Alzheimer's, AIDS and breast cancer.
Test-tube technology is the best available way to breed transgenic monkeys, experts said.
Sun's team capitalized on a few new technologies on stimulating more eggs from female monkeys and collecting semen and mammalian oocyte, as well as new ways of in vitro fertilization and embryo transplantation.
The new technologies "can significantly improve the pregnancy rate and live birth of healthy baby monkeys," the scientist said.
Their technique was regarded as an efficient method in constructing various transgenic primate disease models.
All the seven new born monkeys are healthy, Sun said, with the oldest Lele, or Happiness, being aged at one and half years.