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Image of the Week: Mouse toes

30 May, 2014

Limb development

As part of our series on model organisms, this week Jack Millner takes a look at one of our tiny mammalian cousins that medical research is greatly indebted to: the mouse.

The mouse genome has the almost the same number of genes as ours, and many human genes have mouse counterparts, which makes mice a valuable model organism to study diseases and test new treatments.

Mice can be bred or genetically modified to exhibit certain traits for research purposes. The Jackson Laboratory, a repository for mouse models in Maine, USA, has even developed mice with a predilection to alcohol to study alcoholism in humans.

The first mouse genome was sequenced in 2002, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is currently working on sequencing 17 key model mouse strains as part of the Mouse Genomes Project.

The above image shows the different stages of digits developing while the mouse is still a foetus. As in other mammals, the hands and feet are initially webbed while the animal is in the womb. The individual digits emerge after the cells linking them undergo a programmed cell suicide, or apoptosis. The three stages of the image take place over the space of one day, when the foetus is about two weeks old.

Image credit Paul Martin, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Over 100,000 high resolution images from our historical collections are now free to use under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence.

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