Wait till you hear what happened:
Georgia State University scientists have created gene-edited hamsters for studies of social neuroscience and have found that the biology behind social behavior may be more complex than previously thought.
A team of Georgia State University researchers led by Regents’ Professor of Neuroscience H. Elliott Albers and Distinguished University Professor Kim Huhman used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to eliminate the actions of a neurochemical signaling pathway that plays a critical role in regulating social behaviors in mammals. Vasopressin and the receptor that it acts on called Avpr1a regulates social phenomena ranging from pair bonding, cooperation, and social communication to dominance and aggression. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), finds that knocking out the Avpr1a receptor in hamsters, and thus effectively eliminating vasopressin’s action on it, dramatically altered the expression of social behavior in unexpected ways.
“We were really surprised at the results,” Albers said. “We anticipated that if we eliminated vasopressin activity, we would reduce both aggression and social communication. But the opposite happened.”
Instead, the hamsters without the receptor showed much higher levels of social communication behavior than did their counterparts with intact receptors. Even more interesting, the typical sex differences observed in aggressiveness were eliminated with both male and female hamsters displaying high levels of aggression towards other same-sex individuals.
“This suggests a startling conclusion,” Albers said. “Even though we know that vasopressin increases social behaviors by acting within 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 we did. The counterintuitive findings tell us we need to start thinking about the actions of these receptors across entire circuits of the brain and not just in specific brain regions.”Georgia State University, “CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing approach can alter the social behavior of animals” at ScienceDaily (May 16, 2022)
Quote of the decade: “We don’t understand this system as well as we thought we did.”
So we now know how to produce hamsters from hell. What if they get loose and multiply?
One suspects that some of these people are going to learn respect for the design of life the hard way. Hope it’s not too hard on the rest of us.
The paper is open access.
You may also wish to read: Epigenetics: Editing epigenome decreased alcoholism in rats Epigenetics chips away at the Darwinian edifice in the sense that the question of whether one “inherits” a tendency to drink too much alcohol may be obviated if epigenetics change cements the tendency long after fertilization.