Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion

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Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1465-1470
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1975

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  • RE: Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion
    • Alex Harris, Research Fellow, University of Wollongong

    A recent article by Martha Florio et al. has discovered that a single human gene is able to promote basal progenitor generation and self-renewal, and can increase cortical plate area and induce gyrification in a mouse animal model. And it may have contributed to evolutionary expansion of human neocortex. This work provides important information on brain development and may lead to a greater understanding of brain function and neural disorders. A number of previous articles have discussed the ethics and controversy of whether scientists should create human-animal chimaeras. However these types of hybrid species may provide valuable new animal models of healthy human tissues and diseased states. Use of enhanced animals for clinical research may therefore lead to better clinical results and ultimately reduce the overall number of animals used. For this reason, some could argue this type of research should be explored further. However, the chimaera animals developed in this work also introduce concerns over enhanced human characteristics in animal models, including improved intelligence, memory and learning skills. This raises critical issues on the ethical treatment of chimeric animals in research and clinical trials; with novel enhanced characteristics come a set of new ethical criteria that may call for a re-assessment of risk of harm. For instance, the handling, housing, physical and psychological needs of the enhanced animals may be different or more complex than the norm...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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