The first monkeys with the autism gene have been created by Chinese scientists. The study that has raised many controversies wanted to find out more information on the disorder.
This study has raised a lot of questions, many people wondering if doing something like this is ethically right. Previous studies focusing on autism have used rats and mice, but as they proved to be unreliable, the Chinese researchers have decided to go a step further and to change the traditional testing on mice on monkey testing.
For the research, eight macaques have been used, of which five are females and three are males. The monkeys now have the MECP2gene, which is known for producing the same traits that the autism does. After the monkeys got the gene, they started to show symptoms of autism. Their social interactions decreased, their anxiety increased and they started to have repetitive actions.
The lead author of the study, Dr Zilong Qiu who works at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanhai addressed his unusual approach. He said that even though most of the researches that are done around the world use rodents for their studies, the complicated symptoms of autism couldn’t have been mimicked by mice. The director of the Institute of Neuroscience in Shanhai, Dr Mu-ming Poo, agreed and said that the mice are not close enough to the human species, like the monkeys are.
Even though a lot of criticism has been addressed for using monkeys, the team of researchers claims that they have followed the standards of research on primates set by both the Unites States and Europe. Among the critics was also Cruelty Free International, who said that using monkeys won’t help the scientists discover new things, as the monkeys are still very different from humans. The director of the organization, Doctor Katy Taylor also added that the approach is very cruel and that a few monkeys involved in the study got ill and died because of the testing. MIT Technology Review also stated that involving monkeys in studies raises some ethical questions.
Even though there are a few of them, some centers in the United States, Japan and China have started to use monkeys in their research. Some monkeys were given the schizophrenia gene. While the first monkeys with the autism gene have been created, more interestingly, the first head transplant that has been successful was done on a monkey.
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