By Bethany Brookshire
Anyone who reads news about science (at Science News or otherwise) will recognize that, like the X-Men or any other superhero franchise, there’s a recurring cast of experimental characters. Instead of Magneto, Professor X, Mystique and the Phoenix, scientists have mice, fruit flies, zebrafish and monkeys. Different types of studies use different stand-ins: Flies for genetics; zebrafish for early development; rats and mice and monkeys for cancer, neuroscience and more.
Many of these species have been carefully bred so they are genetically identical, giving scientists maximum control as they study changes in genetics or environment. These animal models have added huge volumes to our understanding of human and animal biology, and will continue to add to our knowledge for many years to come.
Now, new techniques such as gene editing mean that scientists can probe and alter the genes of any animal. The methods open the door for new organisms — such as squid and octopuses — to join scientists’ basic toolkits. With these new arrivals come new questions. What is needed for a good animal model, and how are gene-snipping tools changing the game? Read more …
Photo: With the advent of new gene editing techniques, some less common animal models such as octopuses may find their way into scientists’ toolkits. Credit: srsphoto/Flickr