Genetically engineered monkeys? China is using them for autism research

| | June 20, 2018
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Image credit: Constance Dubuc
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[MIT genetics researcher Guoping] Feng now travels to China several times a year, because there, he can pursue research he has not yet been able to carry out in the United States.

In search of a more humanlike model for his autism research, Feng set finding Chinese collaborators to create [autism gene] Shank3 knockout monkeys. The goal was not to make a monkey with autism, per se, but one with enough symptoms to elucidate the brain structures that cause them and test drugs that could alleviate them.

American scientists worry that the United States is falling behind China on primate research. “I have two big concerns,” says Michael Platt, a brain scientist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies primates. “The United States is not investing heavily in these [primate] models. Therefore we won’t have the access that scientists have in China.” The second, he says, is that “we might lose the talent base and expertise for actually doing primate neuroscience.”

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Primates should only be used if other models do not work, says Feng, and only if a clear path forward is identified. The first step in his work, he says, is to use the Shank3 monkeys to identify the changes the mutations cause in the brain. Then, researchers might use that information to find targets for drugs, which could be tested in the same monkeys.

Read full, original post: China Is Genetically Engineering Monkeys With Brain Disorders

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