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Monkey butlers a step nearer as boffins clone macaques

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American-based scientists report they have successfully produced cloned embryos from an adult male monkey.

The breakthrough will have important implications for the fields of invincible clone armies, organ harvesting, and - most importantly - monkey butlers.

The research was published in prestigious boffinry publication Nature. It seems Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his colleagues used a modified version of the techniques which yielded the famous cloned sheep Dolly.

According to the BBC, less sophisticated or old-fashioned clone labs "sometimes dye the genetic material or use an imaging technique that exposes the cell to ultraviolet light". Mitalipov's people reckon this mucks up the embryos, and have no truck with such methods.

Instead, when extracting DNA from samples provided by the monkey to be cloned, they favour a new ploy known as "Oosight", which "uses polarised light to visualise microscopic cells in real time," avoiding any need to chuck dye or dangerous ultraviolet about in the clone vat.

Mitalipov's team reportedly implanted a hundred or so of their clone embryos in the wombs of monkey brood mothers, but no actual fully-grown primates resulted (apparently the boffins may have merely been unlucky. It took 277 goes before Dolly the sheep came along).

It would appear that huge armies of invincible clone soldiers - even monkey ones - are some distance off, as nobody has yet cracked the tricky problem of building vats which can reliably grow them. Using ordinary monkey brood mothers seems unreliable at best, not to mention time consuming.

Organ harvesting from custom grown human clones - or perhaps ethically questionable ploys involving transplant of one's brain from a worn-out or inopportunely dead/mangled body into a new fresh young replacement one, summarily evicting the cloned brain* - seem equally distant. Nobody has yet produced any cloned human embryos from adult donors, far less grown them. Also, there would probably be some kind of legal problem.

Even once the boffins have managed to get the current embryos to actually grow, there are also problems ahead for the putative monkey-butler industry. Quite apart from the training programme ("one at first, but he'll train others") the new Oosight tech is so far proven only in macaque monkeys.

Macaques are mostly small, and would struggle to mix full-size cocktails, lift heavy shopping, forcibly expel unwanted guests, or handle other traditional roles of the monkey major-domo.

We may have to be content with such relatively humdrum benefits as cures for horrible diseases such as Parkinson's, Huntingdon's, MND, and cystic fibrosis - not to mention possible related therapies for diabetes.

Sober, reasoned analysis - for those who like that sort of thing - from a guy with an actual PhD and everything can be read here. ®

*Presumably to a bubbling jar from which it might hatch a plot among the monkey servants leading to rebellion and one's eventual downfall.

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