Over the past century, there have been many scientific advancements in medicine using animals like rats, gerbils, and chimpanzees. None has sparked as much fascination, however, as the role of a Chinese hamster in medical advancements.
Beginning in the 1900s, our furry friend has played a vital role in medical progress. As explained in an April 11th, 2017 Wall Street Journal article, the biological cellular makeup of a Chinese hamster is different from that of its Western cousins. Originally from the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the north, the Chinese hamster contains fewer chromosomes than its distant relative. This genetic difference makes it easier to work with in laboratories through culturing, cloning, and modifying its cells. Its smaller cells grow and divide much more quickly than its Western counterpart, a crucial element for large-scale drug production. According to Blake Salisbury, a former executive from drug company Eli Lilly, “Normal cell lines will divide and die. But the Chinese hamster ovary cell continues to multiply.” This is crucial in scientific development because a tiny cluster of cells can grow and divide into billions more, each carrying the exact genetic makeup as the parent cell.
Presently, Chinese hamsters themselves are no longer necessary to be utilized in the laboratory. Through the scientific advancements already made, their ovary cells can be recreated in labs and used in the development and creation of drugs. There are many current medications created by this method that have shown to be effective and are being used worldwide for various diseases. Looking to the next generation, perhaps other animals originating from China can serve as a means and method for our future discoveries in the field of biotechnology worldwide.
Some of the information in this article came from the following source:
Rana, Preetika. “Chinese Hamster Drives R&D Wheel.” The Wall Street Journal [New York], 11 Apr. 2017, Business and Finance sec., p. B2.