The Arizona bark scorpion is the deadliest scorpion in the continental United States. But the Southern grasshopper mouse happily munches on the scorpions. How? The scorpion's venom actually triggers the mouse to numb itself to pain.
From KQED Science:
The scorpion venom contains neurotoxins that target sodium and potassium ion channels, proteins embedded within the surface of the nerve and muscle cells that play an important role in regulating the sensation of pain. Activating these channels sends signals down the nerves to the brain. That’s what causes the excruciating pain that human victims have described as the feeling like getting jabbed with a hot needle. Others compare the pain to an electric shock. But the grasshopper mouse has an entirely different reaction when stung.
Within the mouse, a special protein in one of the sodium ion channels binds to the scorpion’s neurotoxin. Once bound, the neurotoxin is unable to activate the sodium ion channel and send the pain signal. Instead it has the entirely opposite effect. It shuts down the channel, keeping it from sending any signals, which has a numbing effect for the mouse.
"Stinging Scorpion vs. Pain-Defying Mouse"
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Researchers partially restored hearing in deaf mice with a certain kind of genetic hearing loss by inserting working copies of the mutated genes. Eventually the technique could lead to gene therapy for certain causes of human deafness. Read the rest
Here's a crazy fact: Thanks to soda and the sneaky added sugars in store-bought foods, 25% of Americans consume a diet that is 25% sugar. In fact, all it takes to hit that is three cans of soda on top of an otherwise sugar-free diet. What does eating like that mean for your health in the long term?
Scientists are still trying to figure that out. Scicurious breaks down a recent study in mice that successfully demonstrates both why our sugar intake has health experts concerned AND why we don't yet know exactly what we're doing to ourselves. Read the rest
This week, scientists cloned a mouse
from cells found in a drop of mouse blood. That's different from other cloned mice, whose creation relied on more invasive sampling from the liver, bone marrow, and lymph nodes (read: the original animal was euthanized). Cloning mice is valuable for scientific research — it's handy to have your subjects be as alike one another as possible. Now, scientists have a way to do that without having to kill the original mouse. Read the rest
"When Yi Rao of Peking University in Beijing, China, and his colleagues genetically engineered female mice so that they could no longer make or respond to serotonin, it appeared to affect their sexuality. Although they would still mate with males if no other females were present, given the choice, the rodents preferred sniffing and mounting females
." [New Scientist] Read the rest
An inquest found mice responsible for burns found on a dead 55-year-old woman in England
, but was unable to determine the exact cause of death. Though the rodents nibbled through cabling and started a fire, Linda Wyatt suffered no smoke inhalation and may therefore have already succumbed to other ailments. [Court News UK] Read the rest
A study at MIT involving mice fed a diet of vanilla yogurt with probiotics yielded interesting and unanticipated results:
First, the scientists noticed that the yogurt-eating mice were incredibly shiny. Using both traditional histology techniques and cosmetic rating scales, the researchers showed that these animals had 10 times the active follicle density of other mice, resulting in luxuriantly silky fur.
Then the researchers spotted something particular about the males: they projected their testes outward, which endowed them with a certain “mouse swagger,” Erdman says. On measuring the males, they found that the testicles of the yogurt consumers were about 5 percent heavier than those of mice fed typical diets alone and around 15 percent heavier than those of junk-eating males.
More in SciAm. The fact that these manly-mouse-man results were achieved from girly-vanilla-yogurt is not lost on me.
But I want to know is, how exactly does one go about weighing the mice's testicles? Your thoughts in the comments. (via Ed Yong) Read the rest