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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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Vets asked to opt-in to Scottish SPCA fostering programme

News Story 1
 The Scottish SPCA is encouraging veterinary practices to opt into its new fostering programme, by agreeing to register foster animals when approached by one of the foster carers.

The programme goes live in August 2021, and will help to rehabilitate animals under the Scottish SPCA's care until they are able to be properly re-homed. The programme will help the animals to receive care and attention in a stable and happy home environment, as some animals do not cope with a rescue and re-homing centre environment as well as others.

Specific information for veterinary practices on the new programme can be found at 

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Webinar provides insight into old age pets

A new webinar providing insights into the BSAVA PetSavers Old Age Pets citizen science project is now available free of charge to its members via the BSAVA Library

The webinar presents an exclusive insight into the research process and progression of the study, which aims to help veterinary professionals and owners provide the best care for their senior dogs.

It also discusses the study's research methods, the researchers' personal interests in this area of study, and how they envisage the findings being used to create a guidance tool to improve discussions between vets and owners about their ageing dogs.