BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Recently, a team of scientists managed to genetically engineer several autistic macaques. The scientists used macaques to study the effects of ASD or autistic spectrum disorder, a mental disorder that is still quite a mystery.
Despite the fact that in the last couple of decades we’ve managed to discover new aspects of the human mind, certain mental diseases, such as autism spectrum disorder remain enveloped in a shroud of mystery. Many scientists believe that the disorder itself has a strong genetical component and that the disorder can be passed down from mother to infant.
A new study performed by a team of scientists from Shanghai’s Institute of Neuroscience proved that the disease has its roots in a genetic marker. Moreover, by isolating and tampering with the levels of this gene, we can gain an insight on how to develop new ASD management therapies or even a cure.
The team of scientists, led by Zilong Qiu, managed to create autistic primates in test tubes. The genetically engineered macaques were born by surrogate mothers. In order to study the effects of the disease, the team imbued each test tube primate with copies of the MECP2 gene, which is thought to play a key role in ASD.
After the primates came to age, they’ve begun to exhibit all the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. All of them display, to a degree, repetitive gestures and had poor social skills. The team observed that the autistic primates were less inclined to engage in social activities with other members of the macaque community. Moreover, all of them had anxiety issues, when it came to social interaction.
While most consider that ASD is also associated with cognitive impairment, it would seem that in certain cases, individuals suffering from this disease develop amazing skills in the area of mathematics or music.
Zilong Qiu, the author of the study, said that the macaque’s condition will help us better understand the severity and the origin of this disease.
Presently, the team is conducting brain scans of the genetically engineered primates in order to see what brain segments are affected by ASD. Qiu also declared that if the study is successful in identifying a faulty wiring in the brain, then there’s hope of curing ASD through the use of gene editing tools.
Scientists used macaques to study the effects of ASD, a disease which still remains a mystery. Moreover, the team also discovered that several macaque gave birth to infants suffering from the same brain disorder.