Hamsters are usually adorable. But see what happened when some US scientists tried a gene-editing experiment on them.
The aim was to see if bonding and cooperation among the animals would increase.
But instead of becoming even more cute and cuddly, the little critters turned into a bunch of mutant rage monsters.
The researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta used a controversial gene-editing technique on the Syrian hamsters.
They removed a hormone receptor which was believed to regulate social relationships and teamwork, expecting this would make the animals more friendly.
The effect, shockingly, was the exact opposite.
The hamsters showed aggression – chasing, biting, and pinning – when exposed to nonaggressive others of the same sex in a neutral arena.
The scientists chose to experiment with the hamsters because, unlike mice, they have a social organisation similar to that of humans.
Gene editing is said to hold the promise of dramatic breakthroughs in medicine, but clearly it also holds potential dangers.
“We don’t understand this system as well as we thought we did,” said Professor H. Elliot Albers, the lead researcher on the study.