HomeOutdoorsNewsMini Deer Antlers Being Grown On Mice in New Medical Experiment

Mini Deer Antlers Being Grown On Mice in New Medical Experiment

by Brett Stayton
Scientists grow antlers on mice
Another small mammal with antlers, the Pudu, and a Wood mouse. (Photos by Tino Plunert/picture alliance via Getty Images, Schellhorn/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Sounds like Jackalopes are apparently one step closer to finally being a real thing. Don’t get me wrong, in terms of folklore Jackalopes are very real. A Jackalope is a jackrabbit with deer antlers or antelope horns sprouting from betwixt its little bunny ears. Taxidermied jackalopes can be found in dive bars and holes-in-the-walls all over the country. Their presence provides a certain gritty-backwoods-ambiance to any watering hole. While scientists aren’t exactly growing antlers on jackrabbits just yet, they are growing them on mice.

The news comes from a report shared by IFL Science earlier this week. Apparently, scientists have been inserting deer genes into the mouse genome. The results are that mice are apparently growing “mini-antlers.” Fascinating stuff. The research seems to indicate that many mammal species that have lost the ability to regenerate organs may still have traces of regenerative genes. The good news is that means further research might help scientists unlock the ability to harness the rapid growth and regenerative strength of antlers for more beneficial applications than giving mice a nice rack. The photos have been released in the original article. But they’re like really disgusting and we don’t have permission to use them. So that means Outsiders will have to make do with my simplistic photoshop work at the start of this article.

During the peak of their growth, antlers grow about 1 inch per day. That makes them one of the fastest regenerating tissues in the entire natural world. Unlike animal horns which are mostly made up of keratin, which is the same material as fingernails, antlers are made of true bone. The fact that such a large skeletal appendage can regrow every year offers a super-specialized look at how doctors could use regenerative medicine to cure skeletal diseases and defects.

Researchers Examining Antlers Of Chinese Sika Deer For Medical Research

The lead researcher for the project is Toa Qin, whose team has been diving into the science behind Chinese sika deer antlers. They have been creating a research atlas of deer antlers by isolating multiple single cells that drive antler growth. The biggest breakthrough came with the identification of two separate stem cells, one that was highly active in regeneration and one that was only active in earlier stages of growth.

Researchers then took those stem cells, and cultured them for a while in a petri dish. Then they implanted them straight into the dome of some mice. After about 45 days, the mice had developed clearly identifiable mini antlers as a direct result of the stem cells. The antlers appear to be made of osteochondral tissue, which is the primary substance that helps bone fractures naturally heal. Researchers are already gathering insights on giving insights on how this information could be utilized in human bone medicine. The use of this treatment for people would obviously raise ethical concerns about the cross-species implantation of cells. There would also need to be additional and significant safety trials before the thought of trying it on human bones is considered. However, it is a good look into the miraculous world of modern medical technology.