Friday, 9 June 2017

Mouse lemur could serve as ideal model for primate biology and human disease

Date: June 7, 2017
Source: Stanford University Medical Center

The mouse lemur -- the world's smallest primate -- has the potential to transform the field of genetics and serve as an ideal model for a wide range of primate biology, behavior and medicine, including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers say.

For decades, scientists have relied on mice, fruit flies and worms as genetic models, but despite all their success, these organisms routinely fail to mimic many aspects of primate biology, including many human diseases, said Mark Krasnow, MD, PhD, professor of biochemistry.

Frustrated by the lack of a good study model, Krasnow and his colleagues turned to the mouse lemur and began conducting detailed physiologic and genetic studies on hundreds of these petite, docile creatures in the rainforests of Madagascar.

Working in a Stanford-funded lab on the island country, the scientists report that they already have identified more than 20 individual lemurs with unique genetic traits, including obesity, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, cardiac arrhythmias, progressive eye disease and motor and personality disorders. Their hope is that continued study of these abundant primates could lead to a better understanding, and possibly better treatments, of these and other conditions in lemurs and humans.

'Huge potential'
"I think mouse lemurs have great potential for our understanding of primate biology, behavior and conservation, in the same way that fruit flies and mice over the last 30 or 40 years have transformed our understanding of developmental biology and many other areas of biology and medicine," Krasnow said. "Some of the most fascinating and important questions that need to be answered are primate-specific. For those, we really need something besides humans to complement the work that has been done in fruit flies and mice."

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