Scientists at Northwestern University found themselves in a horror movie-worthy scenario when a gene-editing experiment involving hamsters accidentally turned the docile rodent into violent creatures.
What Happened: The New York Post reported the scientists used the CRISPR gene-editing technology to remove the vasopressin hormone and its receptor Avpr1a from a group of Syrian hamsters to determine if this would boost the level of cooperation between them — the species was chosen because they exist in a social structure that is similar to human behavior.
“We anticipated that if we eliminated vasopressin activity, we would reduce both aggression and social communication,” said H. Elliot Albers, one of the lead researchers in the study.
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What Happened Next: Things didn’t quite go as planned. The gene-spliced hamsters took on a level of hostile behavior not common to the species, with Albers noting both male and female hamsters displayed “high levels of aggression towards other same-sex individuals” through biting, chasing and pinning down other hamsters.
“We were really surprised at the results,” Albers acknowledged, adding, “We don’t understand this system as well as we thought we did.”
Photo: Adamjennison111 / Wikimedia Commons