Let me introduce a weird creature in the earth. It has a weird name, weird nature, and weird eating habit and carrying a weird secret of a pain killer. The name is Grasshopper mouse, endemic to the United States and Mexico and distantly related to the common house mouse. They do not posses any nature of grasshopper rather they howls like wolf, bites like tiger. They are only carnivore mouse of north America. Insects, snakes, lizards, scorpions and even other mice make up 90% of their diet. They usually howl before crunching into its prey or to warn another of its kind standing on its hind legs, throwing its head back.
They are born killers, they quickly figure it out how to prey even if born and raised in captivity. They appear to learn their aggression from their father, pups raised with two parents are more likely to bully other mice and kill insects more viciously than raised by single mothers.
But, the ability which attracts the scientists is its resistance to the venom of Arizona Bark Scorpion, the most poisonous scorpion in the world. Its venom causes severe pain, muscle contraction and respiratory failure to human. But, grasshopper mice kill and eat them, without a pause even when stung!
Recently Ashlee Rowe of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas worked on to reveal its secret. They removed individual nerve cells from the mouse’s spinal cord that transports pain signal and studied how the venom altered their function. Generally scorpion venom activates a protein called Nav1.7 which makes nerve to through pain signal to the brain. But Grasshopper mice have a mutation in the protein Nav1.8 that prevents the signal from traveling further and reaching the brain.
The researchers are now attempting to figure out exactly how the mouse’s mutation in Nav1.8 blocks pain signals, to see if it could help to design a novel pain killer.
3. Weekly New Scientist, 19 th January, 2013