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Thread: How a little possum could help to find a paralysis cure

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    How a little possum could help to find a paralysis cure

    How a little possum could help to find a paralysis cure

    The genetic code of a marsupial has been unravelled for the first time, providing important clues to human medicine and insights into the great evolutionary split between the two main branches of the mammal family tree.

    The completed genome of the grey short-tailed opossum promises to help scientists to develop ways of treating paralysis by repairing spinal-cord injuries, as well as shedding light on conditions such as heart disease and skin cancer.

    The grey short-tailed opossum, which has the Latin name Monodelphis domestica, is native to South America. It was chosen as the first marsupial to have its genome mapped because it is already a valuable animal model for studying human disease. Opossums have several unusual physiological characteristics that make them useful in the laboratory. These will become much simpler to study with knowledge of the genome, which was sequenced from a strain bred in captivity at the Southwestern Foundation for Bio-medical Research in San Antonio, Texas.

    Baby opossums can regenerate a crushed or completely severed spinal cord until they are about one week old, and scientists researching therapies for paralysis are investigating which genes allow this kind of healing. The DNA sequence will assist this research.

    The small marsupials are also the only mammals apart from human beings to develop malignant melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, solely as a result of exposure to ultraviolet light. As cancer is caused by damage to DNA, the genome will enhance the opossum’s usefulness as a laboratory organism for developing new treatments.

    Other areas of medicine that will benefit include cardiovascular disease, in which opossums are used to study the effects of high blood cholesterol, and foetal development. Grey short-tailed opossums are born at the equivalent stage to a six-week old human foetus, allowing researchers to study their growth without invasive procedures.


    Opossum Genome Shows 'Junk' DNA Source Of Genetic Innovation
    Last edited by manouli; 05-11-2007 at 04:28 PM.

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