Move over lab rat
31 October 2010
New research by SBCS molecular ecologist Dr Chris Faulkes on naked molerats is featured in this week’s New Scientist magazine (New Scientist 28 October, Issue 2783, pages 44-47), as part of a wider article on the importance of these intriguing mammals for medical research. Naked molerats, unlike their furry relatives, live in unusual insect-like colonies with queens, male breeders, and sterile workers. By comparing the brains of naked molerats to those of less social species, Dr Faulkes and his colleagues are investigating whether their complex behaviours are genetically hard-wired. The team’s most recent findings, published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology (volume 518, pages 1792-1813), reveal that naked molerats possess many more receptors that bind to the chemical oxytocin, a hormone that is already known to modify mate bonds in some rodents, and also is implicated in some kinds of autism. This study adds to a growing number of examples of how non-lab organisms could help us to understand conditions in humans.