Are Mouse lemurs an ideal model for human disease and behavioral testing?

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A good scientific model to test the effects of a cure for a genetic problem in the human population is very important tool for the scientific community. Krasnow, in his research, believes he has found a good animal or model for over twenty different conditions genetic problems experience by humans, such as cardiac arrhythmias, progressive eye disease, and high blood sugar, obesity, and personality disorders.  This animal is the mouse lemur.

The benefits of this animal are that they are small, produce many offspring, reproduce rapidly, are inexpensive and easy to maintain and manage. Another benefit is that this animal is a primate which is genetically more related to humans than other current model organisms such as mice and fruit flies.  The article states that this animal is the midway between humans and mice.  This would be a huge step forward in disease research due to the fact that transferring genetic problems or most diseases from a mouse model to humans is a leap. Usually mice are great to test and see a disease but the changing genetic makeup between humans and mice is too great a change to say that we found a cure, and requires far more testing in other species. With mouse lemurs, they are primates which makes  them more closely related to humans than mice.  This makes them a far superior model organism then mice for this reason and making the leap from animal testing to human testing much smaller.

These animals are being studied in France, because aging lemurs can develop dementia and accumulate plagues in the brain that resemble Alzheimer’s in human patients.  This could be huge in trying to understand and possibly cure or at least stop this disease in a human population.  This would be a huge benefit to the research community due to these conditions are already naturally occurring in this animal and not something that would have to be introduced into a population.  The article states that Alzheimer’s is a disease that is a condition that is hard to model in other organisms, so this could be very promising in the effort to cure this disease for humans.

These animals are described as the rodents of Madagascar and are very common and not endangered. This also means that they can be studied in the wild.  The cost for genetically sequencing an animal is dropping so it will be easier and cheaper than in the past to catch these animals, see what genetic variation these animals have, tag them, release them and see how they interact with other animals in the wild.  This is a huge difference then with fruit flies and mice where the mutation has to be injected into these animals to be studied since it is already naturally occurring.  They state that in a few years and at a fraction of the cost they could accomplish the same as the International Knockout Mouse Consortium could accomplish in ten with a cost of almost a billion dollars.

The only problems they are facing are not enough staff and the fact that all lemur populations in Madagascar are being threatened by farming, logging and mining interest in the area. However, minus these problems it appears that the mouse lemur would be an ideal model organism for a multitude of factors that plague humanity.



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