Punkeys are subjecting themselves to testing so they can someday overcome diseases and rule over us. Just watch. From New Scientist:

Monkeys genetically engineered to get the deadly neurological disease Huntington’s could provide a unique way to test potential treatments because of their cognitive and genetic similarities to humans.

“Monkey models may have a privilege over other animal models,” says Anthony Chan, a biologist at Yerkes National Primate Center in Atlanta, Georgia, whose team engineered five rhesus macaque monkeys to churn out the mutant protein that causes Huntington’s.

Researchers routinely splice human genes in and out of mice to give them diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. But mice are of limited use when investigating brain diseases such as Huntington’s: people who have it can’t control their movement, speech or swallowing and their cognitive abilities deteriorate. But mice engineered to express the Huntington’s protein don’t jerk their muscles like humans do and it can be tough to gauge their cognitive decline.

To see if primates might offer more insight, Chan’s team used a virus to insert the Huntingon’s gene into the DNA of 130 macaque eggs, along with a gene that makes a fluorescent green jellyfish protein. The researchers then fertilized the eggs and implanted them into eight mothers.

All the monkeys born expressed the green protein, indicating that gene transfer was successful, and some already appear to have the monkey equivalent of Huntington’s. The brains of one set of twins, who died a day after birth, were littered with clumps of a mutant protein found in humans with Huntington’s, while the lone animal, who died a month after birth, jerked involuntarily.

Meanwhile, Chan’s team is watching two surviving twins for symptoms, which can strike swiftly and unpredictably in humans. They will also analyse the monkeys’ blood for early predictors of the disease.

“I think this is amazing,” says Chris Ross, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He studies mouse forms of Huntington’s but says that monkeys will help test several potential drug treatments, he says. Huntington’s affects 1 in 10,000 people of European descent.

Transgenic monkeys with other human diseases, such as early onset Alzheimer’s or fragile X syndrome, are sure to follow, says Gerald Schatten, a biologist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

Yet even researchers accustomed to animal work say working with transgenic monkeys should always be a last resort. “There should be higher levels of scrutiny in working with our closest animal cousins,” Schatten says.

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