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When will the first cloned human be born?

In January, Chinese researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai shocked the world by publishing evidence that they had cloned two female macaques--Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua--using similar techniques to the ones that scientists at The Roslin Institute used to create Dolly The Sheep nearly twenty years ago.

The Chinese team put a twist on the key process--known as "somatic cell nuclear transfer." Reporters at Futurism summarized their breakthrough:

[The transfer process involves] replacing the nucleus in a donor egg with a nucleus taken from a cell from another animal. After scientists use an electric current to make the egg believe it has been fertilized, it will start to develop into an embryo that can then be implanted into a surrogate for gestation. The animal that results from the pregnancy will be a genetic copy of whatever animal donated the nucleus. In primates, the process has traditionally failed at the blastocyst stage of embryonic development. To get past this hurdle, Sun’s team added two new elements to the usual collection of nutrients and growth factors that are typically introduced to embryos prior to surrogate implantation. Those new elements, a compound called trichostatin A and messenger RNA, helped direct the DNA to grow properly by prodding hundreds of genes necessary for successful embryonic development into action.

They've promised not to extend their work to use on humans. But now that the genie is out of the bottle...

(For a philosophical exploration of the implications, check out this piece in The Economist. It ends on this ominous, Philip K. Dick-esque note: "given the simplicity, these days, of editing DNA, it is hard to believe there is not, somewhere in the world, just such a being preparing to celebrate its own second C-day.")

On the other hand, this subject is easy to hype. We've heard promises of imminent human cloning for a while now.

When do you think it will finally happen? Resolution date = the birthday of a human clone, as recorded and published in a respected scientific journal.

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