Cornell geneticist Teresa Gunn displays a mahoganoid mutant mouse, a possible animal model for brain disease in humans.
Some mice with a genetic mutation for mahogany-colored coats also develop spongiform degeneration of brain tissue, similar to mad cow disease. Because of this oddity, the mice could be valuable animal models for human disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, according to geneticists at Cornell and Stanford universities.
The surprising discovery in a mouse strain known to geneticists since the 1960s is reported in the latest issue of the journal Science (Jan. 31, 2003) by Teresa M. Gunn, Gregory S. Barsh and their collaborators as "Spongiform Degeneration in mahoganoid Mutant Mice."
"Just don’t call them mad mice," pleads Gunn, an assistant professor of genetics in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine who began the research in Barsh’s laboratory at Stanford. "We do see the same kind of tissue degeneration -- with fluid-filled vacuoles, or holes, where the gray matter should be -- in BSE cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy and in these mutant mice. But the mice don’t have the same motor coordination problems as mad cows, and the condition is not lethal."
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