Concern over development of GM monkeys
Response to reported new GM technique
Recent developments in genetic engineering techniques have led to the emergence of new experimental techniques to genetically modify animals. The increase in the use of genetically modified organisms is due at least in part to the introduction of these new techniques. These new methods make genetic modification of a wide range of species both much easier and crucially more affordable - to create a transgenic mouse model can now cost as little as £5000 as compared to £50,000 a couple of years ago.
The fact that technology is now accessible and cheap does not necessarily mean that the creation of greater numbers of transgenic animals is either good for science or human disease research. Animal models, in particular the widely used rat and mouse models are often very poor in terms of their similarity to humans. Human disease and responses to injury are often quite different to those seen in animals. The current paper describes the monkey as an important species in developing therapeutic strategies and that further research using monkeys has been hampered by the inability to genetically modify them. However, even though monkeys are more closely related to humans than many other laboratory animals they are still far from being an ideal model.
For research to be relevant and useful for prediction of human adverse reactions, animals should not be stressed. Stress is known to cause hormonal changes that will affect responses to test drugs or behavioral studies. Monkeys are communal animals, like humans, and when held in isolation show the same behavioral differences. Thus to be of any value and to not make erroneous predictions it is vital that monkeys must not be isolated, because it would render the results potentially invalid.
Drugs that have been tested on monkeys for toxicity and efficacy have been found to either be toxic or ineffective in patients. Whilst the technological advances in genetic engineering are to be both applauded and admired, their subsequent use to produce genetically modified monkeys is questionable at best. FRAME would call for more funding to be used to produce model systems based on human tissues and cells rather than try to develop more sophisticated laboratory animal species. If you’re working on human disease, then it is necessary to use human-derived material to predict human responses.
This statement is issued in response to:
Niu et al., Generation of Gene-Modified Cynomolgus Monkey via Cas9/RNA-Mediated Gene Targeting in One-Cell Embryos, Cell (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.027
Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments
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FRAME promotes the replacement of laboratory animals with non-animal methods, through better science.