Opossums, melanoma, and HIV research- oh, my!

google free mini opossumLaboratory opossums (Monodelphis domestica) are marsupials that are native to South America. Unlike North American opossums, which are the size of a full-grown cat, they’re only about six inches long. But for such a small size, they’ve made quite an impact in the field of biomedical research.

They are excellent research models for a variety of reasons. Mini opossums are the only mammal (besides humans) to develop malignant melanoma after UV radiation. Because of this trait, researchers can test new treatments for melanoma and research prevention strategies. And amazingly, these animals also have the ability to heal after severe spinal cord injuries sustained during the first week of life. Adults are unable to do this, so researchers are working to identify the genes that switch this capability on and off.

They give birth to extremely underdeveloped young (gestation is only 14-15 days!), which cling to the mother and remain attached to her for a few more weeks until they are fully developed. This unique trait makes them an excellent model for research on early development, as well as transplant and cancer research. The laboratory opossum is also the first marsupial to have its genome sequenced, and in addition to the applications above, it’s also important in heart disease research, HIV research, and comparative genetics. They’re pretty important animals- read more about them here!


2 thoughts on “Opossums, melanoma, and HIV research- oh, my!

  1. lexi_H

    this is a grand informative page perfect for showing postive sides of animal testing wich is my topic in my reading class sadly but this made think its not all bad. I have to thank the people who wrote this and congratulate them for such a great informational and mind boggling peace.

    1. Science Kicks Ass Post author

      I’m glad you came across this page! If you would like more information, or if there’s a way I can help you with your project, please let me know. Animals play an important role in the discovery of new drugs, surgeries, and treatments, and if you have any questions, please ask away. Please keep visiting, and let me know if I can help!

Comments are closed.