Scientists accidentally create super vicious HAMSTERS in lab after gene-editing experiment goes wrong and aggressive rodents chase, bite and pin each other
- Gene-editing lab test inadvertently creates horde of rabid hamsters
- Scientists removed key hormone in hopes it would boost animal cooperation
- But it drove them wild, prompting the hamsters to be chased, bited and pinned.
- ‘We [thought] this would reduce aggressiveness. But the opposite happened’: test leader
- “We don’t understand this system as well as we thought,” the professor added.
Scientists have inadvertently bred a horde of unusually aggressive hamsters after a gene-editing experiment aimed at “reducing aggression” went wrong.
Researchers at Georgia State University have produced new rodents without the hormone vasopressin in an attempt to improve “social communication” between rodents.
Still, the chemical change made the Syrian hamsters feral, causing fights inside the cages.
The ultra-vicious hamsters have been photographed pinning, biting and chasing each other.
Scientists have shared footage of genetically modified hamsters fighting in their cages
Hamsters are generally social animals with low levels of aggression and ease of cooperation
Lead researcher Professor Elliott Albers said: “We anticipated […] we would reduce both aggression and social communication – but the opposite happened.
The key hormone Avpr1a was thought to regulate friendship and bonding, with its removal believed to increase harmony between animals.
Instead, the lab experiment recorded “high levels of aggression toward other people of the same sex.”
Prof Albers said: ‘We were really surprised at the results.
We thought that vasopressin affects social behaviors in hamsters, including aggression and communication.
CRISPR is a gene-editing technique in which scientists can ‘cut’ a section of someone’s DNA
To further their research, the scientists turned off Avpr1a, suppressing a receptor that interacts with vasopressin in key regions of the brain.
Now immune to the hormone, it was thought that the rodents would become friendlier.
The results have been anything but an increased frequency of fighting, biting, chasing and blocking among the hamsters in their cages.
The study’s striking findings challenge scientists’ understanding of the relationship between biology and behavior.
The professor added: We don’t understand this system as well as we thought.
“The counterintuitive results tell us that we need to start thinking about the actions of these receptors in entire brain circuits, not just specific brain regions.
“Developing genetically modified hamsters was not easy. But it is important to understand that the neurocircuits involved in human social behavior and our model have […] relevance to human health.
Prof Albers said gene-editing tests are intended to help find solutions to neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism and depression.
HOW DOES CRISPR DNA EDITING WORK?
The CRISPR gene-editing technique is increasingly used in health research because it can alter the building blocks of the body.
Basically, CRISPR works like a DNA cutting and pasting operation.
Technically called CRISPR-Cas9, the process involves sending new strands of DNA and enzymes into organisms to modify their genes.
In humans, genes act as templates for many processes and characteristics in the body – they dictate everything from the color of your eyes and hair to whether or not you have cancer.
The components of CRISPR-Cas9 – the DNA sequence and enzymes needed to implant it – are often sent into the body on the back of a harmless virus so scientists can control where they go.
Cas9 enzymes can then cut strands of DNA, effectively turning off a gene, or delete sections of DNA to be replaced by CRISPRs, which are new sections sent to modify the gene and have an effect that they have been pre-programmed to produce.
But the process is controversial because it could be used to change babies in the womb – initially to treat illnesses – but could lead to a surge in ‘designer babies’ as doctors come up with ways to alter the Embryo DNA.
Source: Broad institute