No Pain, All Gain, Says Mouse

Written by: Emily Weigel

Primary Source: Choice Words with Choosy_Female


Grasshopper mice aren’t just cute: they EAT scorpions. The painful, potentially deadly stings of  ark scorpions don’t bother them; stings are just par for the course in devouring a meal.

In a paper published in Science, MSU BEACONite Ashlee Rowe and colleagues demonstrated that the grasshopper mice are essentially numb to the pain caused by the toxin in the sting.

By sequencing the genes for the different sodium channels which respond to the toxin, the scientists discovered that one channel in the grasshopper mice has amino acids different from other mammals sensitive to bark scorpion stings.

By binding to this particular sodium channel in the mouse pain neurons, the toxin blocks the firing of a pain signal to the brain. Thus,  the toxin acts as an analgesic rather than a pain stimulant, leaving the mice generally resistant to the bark scorpion toxin.
“We know the region of the channel where this is taking place and the amino acids involved,” she said. “But there’s something else that’s playing a role, and that’s what I’m focusing on next.”

[Written as part of my work with the BEACON Buzz]

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Emily Weigel
Emily Weigel (@Choosy_Female) is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Zoology and in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program at Michigan State University. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus on interdisciplinary research from the Georgia Institute of Technology. At MSU, Weigel conducts research in the lab of Dr. Jenny Boughman and is affiliated with the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Her dissertation research focuses on how female choice and investment interact with male mating strategies. Additionally, Weigel’s education research asks how and why a background in genetics affects student performance in evolutionary biology. When not researching, Weigel enjoys playing soccer, surfing Netflix, and promoting STEM in the community.
Emily Weigel

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