BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Autism is an increasingly common ailment for more and more children, according to the CDC. So, multiple groups are looking into treatments for the ailment, but they sadly aren’t having too much success. A team of researchers from China had a group of monkeys genetically modified to help autism research.
In an attempt to get better research subjects other mice for their autism research, a team of scientists managed to alter the genes of a group of monkeys with the human specific gene MECP2.
By overexpressing the gene, the team created in the monkeys a condition that is known as MECP2 duplication syndrome, and which causes symptoms very similar to those of autism.
The team took a bunch of macaque eggs, and injected them with a virus that carries the MECP2 gene. After being fertilized, the eggs were inserted in surrogate monkeys and resulted in 8 specimens, each of them carrying the gene.
But not only do they carry the gene, they also have the ability to pass it on to their offspring, opening up the possibility of creating colonies of these monkeys to help with autism research.
The monkeys seem to have rather similar mental abilities to other monkeys, while key differences lie in their behaviors – the animals seem to partake in repetitive behaviors, like going around in circles, and they also seem to engage far less social behaviors than their normal counterparts.
The animals also appeared to be more protective of their territory, even showing anxiety at the arrival of humans.
Despite the experiment sounding like a potentially very bad idea, the team of Chinese scientists that developed the genetically modified monkeys did everything for a very good cause – monkeys are far better test subjects, at least in regards to autism, than mice are.
The current plan is to use the monkeys in order to figure out the brain circuits that are responsible for generating autism-like behavior, and then to use last year’s highly controversial CRISPR/Cas9 technology to see if they can figure out any treatments.
One major difference indicating that the tests might not be entirely accurate is posed by the fact that the monkeys lack the autism trait of being susceptible to epilepsy and seizures, but that doesn’t really need to be addressed from the start.
A major setback of this experiment is constituted by the far steeper prices involved in taking care of monkeys than those of taking care of mice, but the possible results – curing autism – are definitely worth the time and effort.
Image source: Pixabay