By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News website
Deaf mice have been able to hear a tiny whisper after being given a “landmark” gene therapy by US scientists.
They say restoring near-normal hearing in the animals paves the way for similar treatments for people “in the near future”. Read more.
New research from Lund University in Sweden has shown that intestinal bacteria can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the researchers behind the study, the results open up the door to new opportunities for preventing and treating the disease.
Because our gut bacteria have a major impact on how we feel through the interaction between the immune system, the intestinal mucosa and our diet, the composition of the gut microbiota is of great interest to research on diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Exactly how our gut microbiota composition is composed depends on which bacteria we receive at birth, our genes and our diet.
By studying both healthy and diseased mice, the researchers found that mice suffering from Alzheimer’s have a different composition of gut bacteria compared to mice that are healthy. The researchers also studied Alzheimer’s disease in mice that completely lacked bacteria to further test the relationship between intestinal bacteria and the disease. Mice without bacteria had a significantly smaller amount of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. Beta-amyloid plaques are the lumps that form at the nerve fibres in cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Read more.
Biologists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified a brain hormone that appears to trigger fat burning in the gut. Their findings in animal models could have implications for future pharmaceutical development.
“This was basic science that unlocked an interesting mystery,” said TSRI Assistant Professor Supriya Srinivasan, senior author of the new study, published in the journal Nature Communications.
Previous studies had shown that the neurotransmitter serotonin can drive fat loss. Yet no one was sure exactly how. To answer that question, Srinivasan and her colleagues experimented with roundworms called C. elegans, which are often used as model organisms in biology. These worms have simpler metabolic systems than humans, but their brains produce many of the same signaling molecules, leading many researchers to believe that findings in C. elegans may be relevant for humans. Read more.
This month, the American Journal of Primatology published a freely-available Special Issue entitled, “Non-Human Primate Well-Being.” The entire issue is dedicated to the physical, psychological and physiological well-being of laboratory-housed non-human primates, and is notable for its cross-facilities studies as well as for the diversity of primate species that are represented, including rhesus and pigtailed macaques (Macaca mulatta and Macaca nemestrina, respectively), vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sp.), and owl monkeys (Aotus sp.) Read more.
By James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News website
The deadly spread of cancer around the body has been cut by three-quarters in animal experiments, say scientists.
Tumours can “seed” themselves elsewhere in the body and this process is behind 90% of cancer deaths.
The mouse study, published in Nature, showed altering the immune system slowed the spread of skin cancers to the lungs. Read more.
Written By Emily Kumlien
Settling a persistent scientific controversy, a long-awaited report shows that restricting calories does indeed help rhesus monkeys live longer, healthier lives.
A remarkable collaboration between two competing research teams — one from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and one from the National Institute on Aging — is the first time the groups worked together to resolve one of the most controversial stories in aging research. Read more.
Written by Melissa Healy
In the year to come, an estimated 1,688,780 people in the United States are expected to get a cancer diagnosis, and cancer will claim the lives of a projected 600,920.
That death toll, however grim, represents a death rate from cancer that is 25% lower than it was a quarter-century ago — a drop driven by steady reductions in smoking rates and advances in early detection and treatment. Between 1991 and 2014, that boost in cancer survivorship translates to approximately 2,143,200 fewer cancer deaths than might have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak. Read more.
Fish. Frogs. Worms.
While you’d expect to find them in your local pond, they’re also some of the biggest contributors to modern medical research. And there’s a reason these so-called “lower” organisms have been swimming, hopping and squirming their way into labs at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation: They’re key players in the war against disease.
“Humans are incredibly complicated and it’s difficult to do experiments with them, so we have to use animal models instead,” said OMRF researcher David Jones, Ph.D. Read more.
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
DECEMBER 22, 2016
In a scientific triumph that will change the way the world fights a terrifying killer, an experimental Ebola vaccine tested on humans in the waning days of the West African epidemic has been shown to provide 100 percent protection against the lethal disease.
The vaccine has not yet been approved by any regulatory authority, but it is considered so effective that an emergency stockpile of 300,000 doses has already been created for use should an outbreak flare up again. Read more.
Scientists are searching for the evolutionary roots of human math in the barnyard and the zoo
By: Susan Milius Dec 12, 2016 — 7:00 am EST
When Christian Agrillo runs number-related experiments in his lab, he wishes his undergraduate subjects good luck. For certain tests, that’s about all he says. Giving instructions to the people would be unfair to the fish.
Agrillo works at the University of Padua in Italy. There, he studies how animals process information. He is finishing up several years of pitting humans against fish in trials. Those trials test their abilities to compare quantities. He can’t, of course, tell his angelfish to choose, say, the larger array of dots. He can’t tell them to do anything. So in recent tests he made his bemused students use trial and error too, just like the fish. Read more.