Monkey Develops Austism Symptoms in World First

A THREE-YEAR-OLD monkey spends its time circling in its cage rather than playing with its peers — and is believed to have autism.

Scientists tweaked the DNA of the monkey when it was just a pinprick-sized embryo.

In doing so, they created a mutation in SHANK3 — a gene linked to autism.

When treated with antidepressants, the monkey’s strange behaviours are reduced and it is more sociable.

Lead researcher Yong Zhang, professor of genetics and developmental biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the monkey could help find suitable drugs to treat autism in humans.

He said: “Our main goal is to test and validate drugs.

“If a drug works in monkeys, then it would be a good argument to try it in humans.”

The mutant monkey was given the antidepressant fluoxetine — known by the brand name Prozac — for two weeks.

During this time, the monkey circled its cage 86% less overall and socialised for 15 times longer than before.

After dosing ended, the monkey returned to its obsessive behaviour.

The scientists think its behaviour could be related to anxiety.

Researchers also found brain scans showed no difference in the mutant monkey’s brain structure and normal monkeys.

Its head size was also in the “normal” range.