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World's first chimeric monkeys are born

Thursday, January 05, 2012 - 02:00

Jan. 5 - Researchers in Oregon have produced the world's first chimeric monkeys. Unlike naturally-conceived animals whose individual cells contain the same genetic structure, the monkeys are composed of a mixture of cells containing different genomes. Scientists have conducted research with chimeric mice for many years, but the primate model gives scientists new insight into the study of numerous diseases that affect humans. The paper was released on Thursday, January 5, in the online journal ''Cell''. Ben Gruber reports.

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STORY: Meet Roku and Hex - the worlds first chimeric monkeys - engineered with genes from as many as six different parents. Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Institute combined embryonic stem cells taken from several monkeys and implanted them into the host embryos of female monkeys. Roku and Hex are two of three monkeys born. The cell groups in their bodies contain as many as six distinct genomes, according to Dr. Shoukrat Mitalipov. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHOUKHRAT MITALIPOV, Ph.D - OREGON NATIONAL PRIMATE RESEARCH CENTER SAYING: "We did it in the monkeys because we wanted to understand whether stem-cells we've isolated from human embryos will have actually, potential, especially for regenerative medicine where they can develop into mature and functional tissues and organs and that's why we paralleled this study with the rhesus monkey." Mitalipov says the key was using stem cells from a very early stage in the embryos development, when they still have the ability to form a whole animal as well as the placenta and other life-sustaining tissues. Scientists have been using chimeric mouse models for research into human neurological disorders for decades. It allows them to see how different genetic structures behave when exposed to the same environmental conditions. But with the creation of Roku and Hex, Mitalipov says scientists will be able get an even clearer picture of these diseases in humans because of the closer relationship between people and monkeys. Mitalipov says he hopes the research will allow scientists to better understand what stem cells can and can't do. He hopes future research will focus on humans, including human embryos, but he emphasizes that there is no intention for anyone to produce human chimeras. He says Roku and Hex will suffice. Ben Gruber, Reuters.

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World's first chimeric monkeys are born

Thursday, January 05, 2012 - 02:00