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.
The study of ferrets has been instrumental in the efforts of researchers to uncover viable treatment options for SARS. Due to the similarity of the lung physiology of ferrets and humans, researchers have been using the ferret model for research into the influenza virus. In recent years, scientists have discovered that ferrets are able to contract SARS. The disease is able to replicate efficiently in the respiratory tracts of ferrets just as it does in that of humans.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is largely responsible for irreversible hearing damage. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to a loud sound or continued exposure to high-decibel noises. Researchers at the University of Iowa are now turning to the common fruit fly to study and combat NIHL in humans. The fruit fly is the ideal animal model because the molecular structure of its ear is more similar to humans than that of rats or guinea pigs, meaning tests on fruit flies yield more accurate results.
Using swordtail-platyfish hybrids, scientists found a proto-oncogene – a normal gene that causes cancer when turned on – that causes spontaneous melanoma formation in these fish. This gene, XMRK, resides on the sex chromosome and allows melanoma to be inherited. The importance of studying XMRK in swordtail-platyfish models is the universal commonalities among proto-oncogenes in different organisms, meaning a similar gene with similar inheritance patterns could very well be what causes melanoma in humans.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in America; over 5 million people are living with the disease. Neurodegenerative diseases are a growing problem in today’s world; as more people are living longer, these diseases are becoming more prevalent. Now more than ever, research in this area needs to be done. This is why the study conducted by Anotaux and her fellow researchers is so vital. If neurodegeneration can be better understood using European House Spiders as model organisms, we will be that much closer to developing new, better, more affordable treatments for these diseases.