These hamsters turned into aggressive 'mutants' after an experiment went wrong

Recently in the United States, an experiment conducted on hamsters went south after scientists modified their genes.

What happened in this laboratory in Illinois could very easily be something out of a bad science fiction movie. While scientists were experimenting on hamsters, the fluffy and usually harmless creatures suddenly went rogue.

Laboratory hamsters

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Ricky Kharawala/UNSPLASH

The Syrian hamster, also known as the golden hamster, is regularly experimented on in laboratories due to various physiological, anatomical, and behavioural features. However, their use in such experiments is controversial and there has been a decline in the number of 'laboratory hamsters'.

Scientists at Northwestern University, however, have been studying the way these animals behave with their furry peers. They were particularly interested in a hormone they produce called vasopressin and its receptor, Avpr1a. So much so that they resorted to removing the hormone altogether using the CRISPR method.Nature World Newsreported on the issue saying:

In an attempt to improve their sociable behaviour, the research team tried to remove Avpr1a, which is thought to be responsible for regulating behaviours such as teamwork, friendship, dominance and bonding.

But not everything went according to plan…

Violent behaviour

After the removal of this receptor the researchers expected the hamsters to be less aggressive and also less social but unfortunately the opposite happened. They explained in the study, which was published in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), that:

Contrary to what was expected, hamsters [with the Avpr1a receptor knocked out] exhibited significantly higher levels of conspecific social communication (i.e. odour-stimulated flank marking) than their wild-type conspecifics.

The ‘mutant’ hamsters also showed higher than average levels of aggression by exhibiting behaviours such as biting, shoving, and chasing. The researchers then reached the conclusion that they don’t know much about vasopressin and its role in behaviour.

This article has been translated from Gentside FR.

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