Opportunities and challenges in modeling human brain disorders in transgenic primates

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 27 June 2017


Molecular genetic tools have had a profound impact on neuroscience, but until recently their application has largely been confined to a few model species, most notably mouse, zebrafish, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. With the development of new genome engineering technologies such as CRISPR, it is becoming increasingly feasible to apply these molecular tools in a wider range of species, including nonhuman primates. This will lead to many opportunities for brain research, but it will also pose challenges. Here we identify some of these opportunities and challenges in light of recent and foreseeable technological advances and offer some suggestions. Our main focus is on the creation of new primate disease models for understanding the pathological mechanisms of brain disorders and for developing new approaches to effective treatment. However, we also emphasize that primate genetic models have great potential to address many fundamental questions about brain function, providing an essential foundation for future progress in disease research.

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Change history

  • 29 August 2016

    In the version of this article initially published online, the first author's name appears as “Charles Jennings” without middle initial; it has been changed to “Charles G Jennings”. Another author's name appears in the author list as “Angela Roberts,” also without middle initial; it has been changed to “Angela C Roberts.” The error has been corrected in the PDF and HTML versions of this article.


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Research projects related to this work at MIT and Broad Institute are supported by the Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research, the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Disorders Research at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, CHDI, Global Academic Innovation Partnering at F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, The Brain Research Foundation, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, NIH BRAIN Initiative and Edward and Kay Poitras. Related research at Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology is supported by a Shenzhen Peacock plan grant (KQTD20140630180249366) and by the Guangdong Innovative and Entrepreneurial Research Team Program (No. 2014ZT05S020). L.W. is supported by the CAS Strategic Priority Research Program (XDB02050003) and National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (No. 81425010). H.Z. is supported by a Shenzhen Subject Arrangement Basic Research Grant (JCYJ20151030140325151) and by the CAS Hundred Talent program. Some of the ideas presented here emerged from discussions at a symposium on transgenic primate research that was held at Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology in China on March 22–23, 2016. We thank all the participants at that meeting for their contributions, and we thank the Ministry of Science and Technology of China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences for financial support of the meeting.

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C.G.J. and R.L. wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors reviewed the manuscript and participated in discussions and development of ideas.

Correspondence to Guoping Feng.

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