This is an excellent use of scientific knowledge, and I approve wholeheartedly.
Gizmodo reports that initial tests of Lil Bub's blood confirmed that she has the genetic mutation associated with polydactl cats, a.k.a. thumb cats. Ernest Hemingway was famous for having an extensive collection of these extra-toed cats. But most thumb cats have extra toes on just their front paws, like this one:
Lil Bub has extra toes on every single foot, which makes her special even in the thumb cat world. How she's different from her Hemingway-bred cousins is one of the many questions these researchers hope to answer.
The project might sound goofy, but it's not a joke: In addition to polydactylism, Lil Bub has osteoporosis -- which is even more rare in cats than it is in humans -- and it's thought that her unique appearance may stem from the condition. Because there are lots of humans who suffer from osteoporosis, it's important that scientists continue to learn as much as they can about the genes that cause it.
“All of these diseases, the mechanism is shared basically between different mammals,” molecular biologist Orsolya Symmons told Gizmodo. “LilBub is basically one piece of a puzzle, but she’s also connected to all these other cases." Lil Bub's Internet fame is just a launching pad for research that could benefit other cats with her conditions -- and one day, maybe even humans could benefit.
If the news is giving you kitty research envy, never fear: There's another crowdfunding campaign going to sequence the bacteria that live in, on, and around people's pet cats. For $99, you can know what creepy crawlies are hanging out in Mr. Whiskers's whiskers.
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