Designing a Six-Legged Mouse for the First Time

Extra limbs for mice: scientists harness gene discovery to unravel the mysteries of embryonic development

Scientists at the Gulbenkian Institute of Sciences in Oerias, Portugal have successfully created a 6-legged mouse embryo with an extra pair of hind legs instead of external genitalia. The researchers, led by Moisés Mallo, were studying a receptor protein called Tgfbr1, which plays a crucial role in embryonic development.

The team discovered that the Tgfbr1 gene influences the development of both genitalia and hind legs in quadrupeds. When the gene is inactivated, the structure that would normally become genitalia transforms into additional hind legs. This finding highlights how the activity of one gene can affect the development of other structures in the body.

By halting the activity of the Tgfbr1 gene in mid-pregnancy mouse embryos, the researchers were able to study its effects on spinal cord development. This gene produces a protein called transforming growth factor beta type 1 receptor, which is involved in cell growth and division. Mutations in this gene have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer, and a rare syndrome called Ferguson-Smith disease can lead to the formation of multiple skin tumors.

Moving forward, the researchers plan to explore how Tgfbr1 and related genes may impact DNA structure in other systems, such as metastatic cancer. They also hope to investigate whether similar processes contribute to the development of unusual characteristics in reptiles. This groundbreaking research sheds light on

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