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Marvin Mouse vs. the Killer T Cell

• October 19, 2009 • 12:55 PM

A transgenic rodent named for a philanthropic football coach is front and center in the effort to solve the multiple sclerosis whodunit.

A new weapon has been aimed at the scourge that is multiple sclerosis: Marvin Mouse.

Marvin, a transgenic mouse, was brainstormed by University of Cincinnati research assistant professor Aaron Johnson and partially funded by the Marvin Lewis Community Fund — hence the Marvin moniker (which echoes an all-but-forgotten comic strip. And Lewis, by the way, is the coach of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, who are currently 4-2.)

Johnson’s goal: to help further the study on a particular type of immune cell, the killer T cell, which has routinely been found near the areas of tissue damage where neurons and axons have been severed by the effects of MS. “It doesn’t mean [killer T cells] did it,” Johnson was quoted in a release, “but it’s kind of like the criminal at the scene of the crime. You need to develop animal models now to try and determine the mechanism by which this can occur.”

As Johnson explained in a U of C video, Marvin Mouse serves as the vehicle for enabling researchers to “take away the ability of killer T cells, when they enter the central nervous system, to engage the neurons specifically.” This new research suggests the “silencing” of the killer T cells target — the MHC Class I molecule — will effectively neutralize the harmful effects of the killer T cells themselves.

While Marvin Mouse’s fate has yet to be determined, rest assured, he will have paved the way for a greater understanding of the effects of MS on animals and humans.

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Erik Hayden
Former Miller-McCune Fellow Erik Hayden recently graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Religion. He regularly contributes for a variety of publications including the Ventura County Star and the alt-weekly, VCReporter.

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