Shanghai researchers published a study in Nature revealing that they genetically modified a monkey who then exhibited autistic traits.
The autistic monkey was given an extra copy of the MeCP2 gene – a gene that was found to be duplicated in severely autistic boys. This monkey exhibited autism-like behaviours like running around in circles and stressing out at the possibility of social interaction.
This is a possible scientific breakthrough for 2 reasons:
- The fact that scientists modified genes in a monkey and subsequently observed behavioural change. What does this say about autism?
- The fact that it worked! Monkeys may be a promising animal model for studying autism.
This is all, of course, very preliminary. Researchers aren’t sure how well the monkey model will relate to humans in the case of autism spectrum disorders. Nevertheless, it’s a start.