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Lizards & skin cancer

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

A rare breed of gecko may hold answers about how skin cancer in humans and mammals.

The lemon-frost yellow leopard gecko was observed by its breeder to have developed small raised white lumps all over its skin, eventually resulting in large cancer-like tumours on the body.

Upon further study by geneticists at the University of California, USA, the team identified that the tumours were linked to a mutation in a gene known to be involved in skin cancer development in humans, mice and zebrafish.

The findings mean that the gecko might make a feasible model for further study of melanomas, one of the most-deadly human cancers, as there are few animal models that naturally develop these cancers.

“To see reptiles being used in a context that has biomedical relevance, for me, is always really exciting, because I think they’ve long been overlooked,” said lizard biologist Matthew Vickaryous.

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