How can a rare gecko help us understand human skin cancer? It turns out that geckos get cancer too, and these particular geckos get a kind of skin cancer that's similar to some found in human.
Lemon Frost leopard geckos are new. The breed arose from a rare genetic event (mutation) that causes the loss of a gene celled SPINT1. Changes in that gene are also known to drive the development of some human melanomas. The loss of the gene caused the leopard geckos to look different! The skin of the animals is a pale yellow color - explaining the name - 'Lemon Frost'.
When a gecko breeder noticed that these particular geckos tend to develop skin cancer, he began working with researchers and they found the changed gene. Now they are looking into using the geckos as a model of some human cancers. Because the cancers arise naturally in the animals, they could be a great way to study the natural development and spread of cancer.
All because a 'leopard' changed its spots!