Scientists ‘don’t know’ how gene experiment created army of angry hamsters

Scientists have created an army of angry hamsters – and they have no idea how.

A group of experts from Georgia State University had used the small beasts in a gene-editing experiment.

The experiment, called CRISPR-Cas9, was meant to help them to turn genes on and off in cells.

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And they were using Syrian hamsters to work out how to do this.

They were looking to turn off the vasopressin receptor in the genes, which is essentially the hormone capable of causing aggression.

But rather than turning it off, they appeared to have made the hamster hyper aggressive instead.

The team was headed by professors Elliot Albers and Kim Huhman.

They said: “We anticipated that if we eliminated vasopressin activity, we would reduce both aggression and social communication.”

But the opposite happened.

They explained: “We don’t understand this system as well as we thought we did.

“The counter-intuitive 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.

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“The use of Syrian hamsters specifically has been extremely important in understanding social behaviours, aggression and communication.

“They were the first animal in which the vasopressin hormone was shown to influence social behaviour.

“Their social organisation is much more similar to humans, which makes them the perfect research subjects, explained Huhman.

“Their stress response is more like that of humans than it is other rodents.

“They release the stress hormone cortisol, just as humans do, and they also get many of the cancers that humans get”

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The pair called the results “startling”, and are now working to find out why and how the strange occurrence happened.

It is not known how many hamsters they experiment on and how many are now super angry.

It was hoped that the results could help to eliminate certain kinds of cancers, as well as removing aggression in humans in the future, too.

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