Mice have long been a favored test subject for scientists because of their huge potential of having their genes modified in order to simulate conditions encountered in humans. Of course, the ethics behind animal testing are highly debatable, but without the procedure we would be battling far more diseases and we’ve have far fewer solutions to the medical conditions plaguing our species.
And while scientists have been able to reproduce a wide array of conditions typical of humans in mice, there are those that are thought extremely difficult, if not impossible to reproduce. Well, a team of researchers just created stuttering mice in order to better investigate the condition. But how could they make the mice stutter, and more importantly, how did they know when the animals had a speech impediment?
Well, the answer to the first question is pretty much the same as with many human conditions that are reproducible in mice – genetic manipulation. While many have blamed stuttering on anxiety, stress, and even bad parenting, researchers determined a few years back that it’s actually a gene that’s responsible for the condition.
In 2010, a team of researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders in Maryland found that a mutation in a gene generally responsible for general in-cell “housekeeping” duties (such as digesting waste inside a cell) is responsible for causing people to stutter. Why this gene that should affect all the cells throughout the body only causes stuttering still remains unknown.
Anyway, the team of researchers from the current study, primarily from the Washington University in St Louis, mutated the Gnptab gene in a bunch of mice in order to give them symptoms similar to those of a human stuttering. Then, the experiment began and lasted until the mutated mice were eight days old.
For multiple sessions lasting 3.5 minutes, the scientists recorded the mice as they were squealing and making various sounds. Of course, a control group was also used in order to distinguish between the sounds made by the mutated mice and the regular ones. The results proved successful.
Not only did the mutated mice produce around a third of the sounds made by the regular ones, with longer pauses between them, but they also seemed to produce single-syllable sounds that were repeated similarly to how people talk when they are stuttering. This successful round of tests will prove invaluable to future stuttering research.
While stuttering can be pretty common among children, actual, developmental stuttering only occurs in about one in twenty kids. It is known to be a genetic condition, but it can often be helped by speech therapy in the measure it can be exacerbated by stress. With the new procedure on mice, scientists can finally attempt to come up with a pharmaceutical treatment for the condition.
Image source: Pixabay