Creation of non-human primate neurogenetic disease models by gene targeting and nuclear transfer

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14 Scopus citations


Genetically modified rhesus macaques are necessary because mouse models are not suitable for a number of important neurogenetic disorders; for example, Kallmann's syndrome, Lesch-Nyhan's disease and Ataxia-Telangiectasia. Mouse models may not be suitable because there may be no mouse ortholog of the human gene of interest, as is the case for Kallmann's syndrome, or because mutant mice do not exhibit the same phenotype observed in humans, as is the the case for Lesch-Nyhan's disease and Ataxia-Telangiectasia. Non-human primate models of neurogenetic diseases are expected to more closely resemble human diseases than existing mouse models. Genetically modified rhesus macaques can be created by modifying the genome of a somatic cell and then transferring the nucleus from this cell to an enucleated oocyte. Random integration of a transgene is sufficient to create models of gain-of-function genetic diseases. Stable expression of green fluorescent protein has been achieved in rhesus macaque fibroblasts. However, gene targeting is necessary to create models of loss-of-function genetic diseases. Several technical challenges must be overcome before null mutant non-human primates can be produced. In our experience, fetal fibroblasts frequently become senescent before selection procedures can be completed. We have overcome this problem by transfecting somatic cells with human telomerase reverse transcriptase. This enzyme extends the telomeres, and lifespan, of somatic cells. Long and accurate polymerase chain reaction can be used to obtain sufficient regions of homology of isogenic rhesus genomic DNA for targeting constructs. This should improve gene targeting efficiency. Gene targeting experiments are currently underway. Null mutant rhesus macaques will likely result in breakthrough advances in the understanding of neurogenetic disease and prove invaluable for preclinical trials of new therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalReproductive Biology and Endocrinology
StatePublished - Jun 16 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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