Monkeys Built to Mimic Autism-Like Behaviors May Help Humans

Scientists have genetically engineered monkeys so that they exhibit behaviors similar to autism, with a goal of testing potential therapies on the animals in hopes that their resemblance to humans will yield more answers about the disorder.

Genetically engineering monkeys is much more costly and time-consuming than making transgenic mice, said GMB and NS faculty member, Dr. Anthony Chan, whose research involves transgenic Huntington’s disease monkeys at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. Producing enough monkeys to test therapies takes years, he said, adding that an experiment like the Chinese one would cost “a few million dollars” and would be more expensive in the United States because of labor costs and less availability of monkeys, which are indigenous to China. Also, some animal rights advocates here are more troubled by research on monkeys than by research on rodents.

Still, some experts said that in some circumstances monkeys could help scientists better understand how autistic brains work and the effects of approaches like deep brain stimulation, gene therapy or medication. And monkeys, with longer life cycles than mice, may offer better opportunities to observe autism developing from infancy.

Click here to view the full story in The New York Times. The story is also featured in The Guardian and BuzzFeed News.