A team of neuroscientists was “really surprised” after a gene-editing experiment conducted on hamsters turned into “aggressive” monsters. In a statement from Georgia State University (GSU) in the United States, researchers cited new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
According to a press release, scientists have used the Syrian hamster and CRISPR-Cas9 – a revolutionary technology that makes it possible to turn genes on or off cells. The technology knocked out a receptor for vasopressin – a hormone associated with increased aggression.
The team of researchers believed that genetic modification would make hamsters more social and peaceful. Surprisingly, however, the humble creatures became more aggressive. “We are really surprised by the results,” said H. Elliott Albers, one of the study’s lead researchers.
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The researchers explained that hamsters without receptors showed “much higher levels” of social interaction behavior than their counterparts with intact receptors. Furthermore, the team noted that common gender differences observed in aggression were eliminated by both males and females exhibiting “high levels of aggression” towards other gay hamsters. Behaviors, including chase, bite and pinning, have been found in the study.
This suggests a startling conclusion, “said Mr. Albers, according to the statement.” Although we know that vasopressin enhances social behavior by acting in several regions of the brain, it is possible that the more global effects of the Avpr1a receptor are preventable. “
Further, the lead researcher added that “competing results” show that scientists “do not understand this system”. Mr Albers said the development of gene-edited hamsters was “not easy”.
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Now, scientists say a better understanding of the role of vasopressin in social behavior is important to help scientists identify new treatment strategies for human mental disorders ranging from autism to depression.