Normally when studying disorders that cause blindness in humans, scientists genetically disable cone-related genes in small animals like mice. Studying nine-banded armadillos would give scientists a much more realistic model to test viable treatment options, such as gene therapy, a method of correcting a genetic disease by replacing defective genes with corrected copies. If gene therapy were able to correct the nine-banded armadillo’s cone-related mutations, it could be adapted to correct forms of human blindness.
Leprosy is a serious disease that attacks the nerves, skin, eyes, and immune system. The Nine Banded Armadillo has given researchers insight into leprosy because the armadillo is also susceptible to this disease. These curious mammals have transformed an age-old nightmare into a potentially curable disease and have given sufferers a ray of hope.