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Flies sleep just like us. And they might help give humans a good night’s rest

Fly NewsSleep is a mystery. It’s essential — without enough sleep, we die — and yet scientists still aren’t sure why we need it.But the how of sleep is just as intriguing as the why.

Amita Sehgal, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, has discovered some of the key genes that control our 24-hour circadian cycle, making us fall asleep at night and rise again in the morning. Sehgal didn’t find these genes in people, however. She found them in flies. Read More.

Published by Stat News July 3, 2016

Monkey study shows Zika infection prolonged in pregnancy

A vacuum tube holds a blood-fed strain of Aedes aegypti mosquito in place under a microscope in a research lab insectary in the Hanson Biomedical Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 17, 2016. Matthew Aliota, assistant scientist in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine, is studying the insect as part of his research about mosquito-borne pathogens such as the Zika virus, dengue fever and yellow fever infections. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Photo Credit by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers studying monkeys have shown that one infection with Zika virus protects against future infection, though pregnancy may drastically prolong the time the virus stays in the body.

The researchers, led by UW–Madison pathology Professor David O’Connor, published a study today (June 28, 2016) in the journal Nature Communications describing their work establishing rhesus macaque monkeys at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center as a model for studying the way Zika virus infections may progress in people. Read More 

Published by University of Wisconsin – Madison June 28, 2016

HIV Vaccine Developed Through Primate Centers Collaboration

HIV-1Moving towards human clinical trials

Over the past 6 years, Drs. Peter Barry and Alice Tarantal, California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) at UC Davis, have been collaborating with Dr. Louis Picker at Oregon Health Science University (OHSU)–Oregon NPRC to develop and test a vaccine and potential cure for HIV. OHSU is now recruiting volunteers to be part of the first human trials for this exciting new development in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Read More.

Published by California National Primate Research Center – UC Davis June 10, 2016

We mightn’t like it, but there are ethical reasons to use animals in medical research

10764885 - white laboratory mice tries to escape from a holding deviceThe media regularly report impressive medical advances. However, in most cases, there is a reluctance by scientists, the universities, or research institutions they work for, and the media to mention animals used in that research, let alone non-human primates. Such omission misleads the public and works against long-term sustainability of a very important means of advancing knowledge about health and disease.

Consider the recent report by Ali Rezai and colleagues, in the journal Nature, of a patient with quadriplegia who was able to use his hands by just thinking about the action. The signals in the brain recorded by implanted electrodes were analysed and fed into the muscles of the arm to activate the hand directly. Read More.

Published on May 25, 2016 by The Conversation

HPV vaccines and cervical cancer – a success in animals is a success for humans

vaccination_art_writA recent article in the journal Pediatrics reported that vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) resulted in a 64% reduction in infections in girls aged 14-19.

The vaccine, Gardasil, came onto market in June of 2006 and protects again four different HPV types: the two most prevalent high-risk viruses, HPV16 and HPV18, and the two most common causes of benign genital warts, HPV6 and HPV11. Protection against HPV16 and HPV18 is particularly important to human health given that these viruses are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers in women – a cancer which caused 270,000 deaths in 2012. The effectiveness of the HPV vaccine is excellent news in our quest to reduce the deadly toll of cervical cancer, and received widespread coverage in the mainstream media. Read More.

Published by Speaking of Research February 23, 2016

Pill prevents Type 1 Diabetes from developing in mice


This image shows a mouse’s pancreatic cells, which have produced insulin (stained brown). The mouse, which was engineered to develop type 1 diabetes, was treated with hymecromone for seven weeks. (JCI) Photo courtesy of The Verge

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune wikipediadisorder that shuts down the body’s production of insulin. This pill blocks the buildup of a specific acid in the pancreas, which then stops the disorder from taking hold, according to research published this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that shuts down the body’s production of insulin. Normally, insulin is made by beta cells in the pancreas; it’s a hormone that’s important for converting the sugars we eat into energy. But for patients with type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the pancreatic beta cells, effectively halting insulin production. The condition is different from type 2 diabetes, where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the insulin stops working properly. Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, affects more than 1.25 million Americans. Read More.

Published by The Verge September 14, 2015

Ebola vaccine works, offering 100% protection in African trial

A man in the Guinean capital Conakry receiving the experimental Ebola vaccine in April.

A man in the Guinean capital Conakry receiving the experimental Ebola vaccine in April.

A highly unusual clinical trial in Guinea has shown for the first time that an Ebola vaccine protects people from the deadly virus. The study, published online today by The Lancet, shows that the injection offered contacts of Ebola cases 100% protection starting 10 days after they received a single shot of the vaccine, which is produced by Merck. Scientists say the vaccine could help to finally bring an end to the epidemic in West Africa, now more than 18 months old.

“This will go down in history as one of those hallmark public health efforts,” says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Twin Cities, Minnesota, who wasn’t involved in the study. “We will teach about this in public health schools.”

“It’s a wonderful result and a fantastic illustration of how vaccines can be developed very quickly and can be used in an outbreak situation to control the disease,” says Adrian Hill, a vaccine researcher at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, also not involved in the work. Read More.

Published by July 31, 2015

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

Colorized micrograph of MERS coronavirus Credit: NIAID

Colorized micrograph of MERS coronavirus
Credit: NIAID

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. Vaccinated mice produced broadly neutralizing antibodies against multiple strains of the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV), while vaccinated macaques were protected from severe lung damage when later exposed to MERS-CoV. The findings suggest that the current approach, in which vaccine design is guided by an understanding of structure of viral components and their interactions with host cells, holds promise for developing a similar human MERS vaccine regimen. Read More.

Published by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases July 28, 2015

Fruit Fly Genetics Reveal Pesticide Resistance and Insight Into Cancer

Snip20160824_1For being so small, fruit flies have had a large impact on genetic research. Thomas Werner, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University, has bridged the miniscule and the massive in an effort to better understand the mechanisms behind several unique features of fruit fly genes.

Over the past week, several studies that Werner co-authored have been published in PLoS ONE, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Nature Education. All are linked by Drosophila—a genus of fruit flies—and the insights that fruit fly genetics provide on human health, specifically cancer-causing genes. Check out their project on the Michigan Tech Superior Ideas, too. Read More.

Published by Michigan Tech July 1, 2015


Mice help researchers investigate a common TB vaccine to be used as a treatment for type 1 diabetes


A medical worker receives a shot at a hospital in Tokyo. Photo credit VOA

A common tuberculosis vaccine is being investigated as a treatment for type 1 diabetes, which is caused by an attack on the body’s own tissues and affects mostly young people. The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine has shown promise in reversing some of the symptoms of diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

The BCG vaccine is the most commonly administered vaccine in the world, given to newborns in countries where tuberculosis is still prevalent. It increases the production of TNF, a hormone that kills off the TB bacterium. Read More.

Published by Voice of America June 8, 2015