An Australian newspaper senior reporter Victoria Laurie talks about the quokka’s claim to fame in tourism and medical breakthroughs:
Vitamins and visitors make quokkas just the tonic for west
“The humble Rottnest quokka is a two-time saviour — in tourism and medical breakthroughs; the quokka has played a pivotal role in helping uncover a new treatment for global sufferers of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
It started five decades ago when quokkas kept in captivity in a Perth laboratory showed signs of a muscle-wasting disease that eventually killed them.
Medical expert Byron Kakulas, then a research student who was given the job of finding out why, discovered the disorder was due to a breakdown of muscle resulting from vitamin E deficiency. When given the vitamin, the paralysed quokkas recovered completely, something once believed to be biologically impossible. This discovery — that muscle fibres are capable of regeneration — inspired a flurry of research over ensuing decades, most notably at Perth’s Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science.
A “genetic patching” drug to treat Duchenne, which affects the muscles of one in every 3500 boys, now offers hope to millions of sufferers. It is in its final experimental stages after approval in 2016 by the US Food and Drug Administration.”