Scientists Create First Genetically Modified Primate
Baby Rhesus Monkey, Nicknamed ANDi, Carries Extra DNA
By WILLIAM McCALL
.c The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (Jan. 11) - Researchers have created the world's first
genetically modified primate, a baby rhesus monkey whose name - ANDi - stands
for ''inserted DNA'' spelled backward.
Born in October, the male monkey carries a tiny extra bit of DNA in a gene
introduced as a marker that can be seen under a microscope because it glows
green, researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University said.
ANDi's creation was described in the Friday issue of the journal Science.
Researchers hope they now can introduce other genes in rhesus monkeys that
could trigger a host of human diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, breast
cancer or HIV, allowing experiments to block them at the genetic level.
The technique for inserting the gene has been used for more than a quarter
century in mice, but comparing a mouse to a human being has limits, said Dr.
Gerald Schatten. He is leading the research at the university's Oregon
Regional Primate Center.
Because monkeys are close genetic cousins to humans, they may give scientists
a better picture of how human disease develops, he said.
''I think we're at an extraordinary moment in the history of humans,''
Schatten said Wednesday.
Others were quick to condemn the research.
Dr. Ray Greek, spokesman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine, said the disease research can be already done at the cellular level.
''I think it's going to get them a lot of press and will eventually translate
into getting OHSU a lot of money,'' Greek said.
''But 20 years from now, will your children be safer from cancer, heart
disease, etc., as a result of this? The odds are astronomically against it.''
Dr. Phyllis Leppert at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the
research, defended the monkey gene modification.
She said the NIH and scientists have been dealing with genetic research
issues for decades, and Schatten - like other scientists who work with
primates - are always trying to balance the use of animals with the prospect
of curing a disease.
''All of this research is being done very carefully with all of the
scientific community giving him input,'' Leppert said.
Schatten said the modification should help researchers find cures for human
diseases faster, eventually ending the need to use animals.
He also said the technique will limit the number of monkeys needed because
test animals can be genetically designed, eliminating the need to create a
large pool of test animals in hopes that one will have the desired
''Researchers around the world believe that a lot of diseases like cancers,
like mental illnesses, like diabetes and other degenerative diseases could
actually be cured, and cured within just a few years,'' Schatten said.
''I don't think any of us would want to make primates sick unless it would
truly accelerate the day that diseases can be eradicated.''
A year ago, Schatten reported the first monkey successfully cloned by embryo
splitting. That monkey is named Tetra. ANDi and his surrogate mother, as well
as Tetra, remain healthy, Schatten said.
ANDi received an extra gene while he was still an unfertilized egg.
Schatten, lead author Anthony W.S. Chan and other researchers modified and
then fertilized more than 200 rhesus monkey eggs. Forty embryos were
produced, and resulted in five pregnancies and three live births. Of the
three baby monkeys, only ANDi proved to have the modified genes.
Greek, an author and physician, remained skeptical.
''We have been doing to mice for 20 to 30 years what they have done with
ANDi,'' he said, ''and we have been singularly unsuccessful, especially in
Terry Lomax, an Oregon State University plant geneticist who has dealt with
similar issues over genetically modified food, said the issue is going to
keep getting more attention.
''But I think people will be a little more fearful because monkeys are a
little closer to home,'' she said. ''That's why it's good to have a public
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