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Leopard gecko skin tumours linked to human melanoma gene
The gene has already been linked to cancer in both humans and other animals.

UCLA scientists have discovered a link between lemon frost geckos and a gene linked to human melanoma.

Scientists at the University of California have traced an unusual colouring and a tendency to form tumours in a rare leopard gecko to a gene linked to human melanoma.

A reptile shop in California began breeding lemon frost geckos in 2016, and produced several of the distinctly yellow-coloured lizards.

Lemon frost geckos are rare, and can fetch prices of over $2,000. However, there is a problem with this breed – roughly 80 per cent of lemon geckos develop bulbous white skin tumours within the first five years of their life. In some individuals, these tumours have the potential to grow exceedingly large, uncomfortable and dangerous for the geckos.

Kruglyak and Guo, geneticists at UCLA, suspected a genetic root to these tumours, considering that it could potentially be a single mutation in a single gene. Using a variety of genetic analyses, they traced the tumours and colouring in this species to a gene implicated in skin cutaneous melanoma, which is a deadly cancer in humans. Their findings are reported in the journal, PLOS Genetics.

The leopard geckos' colouring comes from cells called iridophores. Unlike human skin cells, which get their colour from the melanin pigment, iridophores produce colours via crystals.

Guo collected DNA from 500 lizards, and read the genetic letters of the animals genomes. The team hunted for DNA regions that could link to certain colour varieties, specifically, the genetic signposts that occurred only in lemon frost animals. 

Researchers mapped the lemon frost trait to a region that contained a single gene, SPINT1, which has already been linked to cancer in humans and other animals. Scientists have also implicated the gene in human skin cutaneous melanoma.

Given this uncommon discovery, it is possible that the leopard gecko could serve as a model for scientists researching melanoma, and in the future, Guo wishes to explore the genetic basis of even more lizard colours, including the blizzard and patternless varieties.


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Webinar to explore the meaning of veterinary leadership

News Story 1
 The WSAVA has announced a free webinar exploring the meaning of veterinary leadership in the 21st century.

Taking place at noon on Tuesday, October 19, the webinar will explore the role of veterinary professionals in leading on animal welfare, the leadership competencies required of all veterinary professionals, and the effects of leadership style on teams.

The webinar, which ends with a Q&A session, will be moderated be WSAVA President Dr Siraya Chunekamrai and led by Veterinary Management Group President Richard Casey. For more information and to access the event, click here

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News Shorts
Horiba announces veterinary haematology webinar

Horiba Medical has announced a free webinar providing practical insight on best practice in veterinary haematology. Entitled 'In practice haematology - Beyond the pale!' the webinar will be presented by Ronnie Barron from the University of Glasgow Veterinary School.

Ronnie's presentation, which will conclude with a Q&A session, will look at QC and artefacts of sample quality and review the effects of different pathologies. Using images, photomicrographs and video links, he will also explain the techniques and equipment needed to complement analytical automation to confirm results quality.

The webinar takes place on Thursday, October 28 (7.30-9pm). For more details and to register, click here.