Scientists Have Created Monkeys With Parkinson’s Disease

Scientists Have Created Monkeys With Parkinson’s Disease
June 16 16:35 2016 Print This Article

(GIZMODO) – Six months after researchers in China bioengineered monkeys to have autism, a Japanese team of scientists has used the same technology to create monkeys with Parkinson’s. It’s a scientific first, and it could lead to effective treatments—but do the ends justify the means?

As reported in New Scientist, a team led by Hideyuki Okano from the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo has used genetic engineering to create a marmoset monkey with Parkinson’s disease. The researchers unveiled the monkeys last month at a meeting in Alpbach, Austria, and say they’ve also bioengineered monkeys to mimic Alzheimer’s disease and motor neurone disease. These monkeys are now three years old, and they’ve already started to exhibit the tell-tale signs of Parkinson’s.

As fellow primates, monkeys are ideal candidates for this type of medical research. As noted, scientists in China have already built autistic monkeys, and thanks to the CRISPR gene-editing tool, there are plans to create monkeys with an assortment of other human-specific diseases, including schizophrenia and severe immune dysfunction.

These animals are increasingly being seen as viable research subjects because humans and monkeys share similar brains and bodies. At the same time, medical experiments on great apes are being phased out, while research on mice is limited in scope. Also, the lack of public support for primate research in North America and Europe is not shared in Asia. As it stands, there are currently 40 breeding companies working in China which have collectively produced nearly 300,000 monkeys, all of which could be used for scientific research.

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