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Creating a six-legged mouse for the first time

In Portugal, scientists have discovered that a 6-legged mouse embryo with an extra pair of hind legs instead of external genitalia can be created by stopping the activity of a receptor protein called Tgfbr1 during pregnancy. Moisés Mallo, a biologist at the Gulbenkian Institute of Sciences in Oerias, and his team are studying this receptor protein, which plays a role in embryonic development. They found that Tgfbr1 dictates whether structures develop into genitals or legs, and inactivating the protein can alter the activity of other genes resulting in mice with extra legs and no external genitalia.

The Tgfbr1 gene codes for a protein called transforming growth factor beta type 1 receptor, which is involved in cellular responses like cell growth and division. Mutations in this gene can increase the risk of skin cancer. The researchers plan to investigate how Tgfbr1 and related genes affect other systems such as cancer metastasis and whether similar processes occur in reptiles with double penises. The embryos used in the study were collected from mice aged 3-6 months, and further research will focus on understanding the broader implications of the Tgfbr1 gene in development and disease.

By Samantha Jones

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