Sometimes, when flipping channels late at night, its hard NOT to stop and gawk at the various spectacles on reality-trash-TV. No self-respecting scientist would admit to being smitten by all the vanity and preening – right? Well, back in 2002, there was a mouse whose homeobox-B8 gene was disrupted – who caused a minor media sensation in the community – for its tendency toward, “excessive grooming … not unlike that of humans suffering from the OC-spectrum disorder”. Hunh? A mouse not-unlike trash-TV celebs who can’t stop fixing their hair? An interesting genetic effect to be sure.
A recent paper, “Loss of Hoxb8 alters spinal dorsal laminae and sensory responses in mice” reports a closer look at this mouse mutation and provides evidence that the excessive grooming is, instead, a consequence merely of “itch perception” which arises from disrupted development of itch specific GrpR-positive neurons in lamina I of the dorsal spinal cord“. Indeed, when the investigators applied sub cutaneous lidocaine to the peripheral nerve endings in the groomed regions – the excessive grooming stopped. If you are interested in the development of the peripheral nervous system, the paper is well worth a read! If you are into the psychology of excessive grooming, the Kardashian sisters always provide a steady stream of data.