In this article, Erin Garcia de Jesus discusses how a genetic defect may cause bunnies to do handstands instead of hopping as a way to move fast. A rabbit called sauteur d’Alfort sends its back legs sky high and walks on its front paws. That strange form may be the result of a gene tied to limb movement, researchers report March 25 in PLOS Genetics. Mice have also shown this similar trait and walked on their front limbs to run.
Understanding this genetic defect and how they move, can help improve our knowledge on the spinal cord. A mutation in the RORB gene is a likely candidate for the rabbits’ handstands. That mutation causes faulty versions of the genetic instructions that cells use to make proteins, which means there is less of the RORB protein in specialized nerve cells in rabbits that have the mutation compared with rabbits that don’t. Without the RORB protein in spinal cord nerve cells (interneurons) , the rabbits may lack the ability to coordinate what their hind limbs are doing, which affects their ability to hop regularly. Understanding this, and how one possible mutation affects how animals move, and ultimately help develop ways to repair the body when defects in RORB cause diseases/immobility.