Gene-Edited Monkey Clones Stir Excitement and Debate

Gene-Edited Monkey Clones Stir Excitement and Debate

Genetically identical primates offer the best models of human disease, but raise ethical issues.

Nature, 2019

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening


Animal models have been indispensable in medical research in enhancing an understanding of how diseases develop and progress, and in formulating and testing drugs. But their utility may be coming to an end. Mice are not men and cannot serve as accurate models of complex human conditions like mental illnesses. China has used gene-edited monkeys to serve as disease models and has gone on to clone the mutant monkeys so researchers can work with genetically identical populations. They intend to create more to simulate a variety of different conditions. The article will engage and inform anyone concerned with the ethics of cutting-edge science and medicine.


China is developing colonies of gene-edited monkey clones to serve as animal models of disease.

Animal models of disease have been invaluable in spurring on an understanding of disease development and progression, and in developing and testing drugs. But they have limitations. Scientists have cured diabetes in mice multiple times, but mice cannot provide appropriate models for many complex and devastating human diseases, especially those with neuronal and cognitive components like Alzheimer’s disease, depression...

About the Author

David Cyranoski is the Asia-Pacific correspondent for Nature magazine.

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