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Gene editing turns fluffy hamsters into “aggressive” rage monsters

A Syrian hamster looks out of its cage

Syrian hamsters were chosen for the experiment because they have human-like social organization (Credits: Getty)

A team of scientists in the US accidentally created overly aggressive mutant hamsters after a gene-editing experiment.

Using controversial CRISPR technology, researchers at Northwestern University looked at a hormone called vasopressin and its receptor, Avpr1a.

They decided to try removing the latter from a group of Syrian hamsters, expecting it would strengthen the bond and cooperation between the lovable little critters.

That’s because Avpr1a is said to regulate things like teamwork and friendship, as well as dominance and attachment.

Her expectation turned out to be wrong. Very wrong.

“We were really surprised by the results,” said Professor H. Elliot Albers, the study’s lead investigator.

“We hypothesized that if we eliminated vasopressin activity, we would reduce both aggression and social communication.

“But the opposite happened.”

The scientists found that the adorable fluffy bundles had transformed into mutant rage monsters that displayed “high levels of aggression toward other people of the same sex.”

All hamsters, regardless of genotype or sex, exhibited aggression (including chasing, biting, and clinging) when exposed to a nonaggressive, same-sex conspecific in a neutral arena.

Professor Albert conceded that the results of the experiment were a “startling conclusion”.

The hamsters, regardless of genotype or sex, showed aggression after undergoing the gene editing experiment (Credit: PNAS)

The hamsters, regardless of genotype or sex, showed aggression after undergoing the gene editing experiment (Credit: PNAS)

The scientists chose to experiment with Syrian hamsters because, unlike mice, they have a human-like social organization.

Professor Albert explained: ‘Although we know that vasopressin increases social behavior by acting in a number of brain regions, it is possible that the more global effects of the Avpr1a receptor are inhibitory.

“We don’t understand this system as well as we thought.”

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/27/gene-editing-turns-fluffy-hamsters-into-aggressive-rage-monsters-16721041/ Gene editing turns fluffy hamsters into "aggressive" rage monsters

Justin Scacco

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