Animal research news feed

8 January 2015

Posted by: UAR news team

Category: Communications & media

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Cows on antibiotics produce twice as much methane

Antibiotics can have far reaching effects on the ecosystem. Recently there has been a lot of press about excessive use of antibiotics among farm animals breeding resistance, but a team from the University of Colorado found that cows treated with antibiotics also produced twice as much methane as those who did not receive medication.



Clot busting magnetic beads used in human studies

New magnetic (iron oxide) beads could help deliver clot busting drugs to the site of a clot up to 30 times faster than normal. Currently, Two in ten strokes are fatal, with five in ten resulting in severe disability - the quicker anti-clotting drugs can reach the site, the less potential damage to the oxygen starved organ.


Brain tumour gene identified

A gene known as OSMR plays a key role in driving the growth of glioblastoma tumours, according to a new study led by a McGill University researcher and published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The research team studied human brain tumour stem cells taken from glioblastoma patients. These cells are normally able to proliferate and form new tumours when injected into laboratory mice. To the researchers’ surprise, however, they found that when they knock down the gene for OSMR in glioblastoma cells and inject these cells in mouse, they lose their ability to form tumours.

Control of glioblastoma tumorigenesis by feed-forward cytokine signaling,” Arezu Jahani-Asl et al, Nature Neuroscience, published online April 25, 2016.

Pecking a living

Seed clue to how birds survived mass extinction / Why birds don’t have teeth: asteroid strike left seed-eating dinosaurs at top of pecking order as there were only seeds left to eat.



Immune cells move in fact to repair liver damage

A type of immune cell quickly moves into the liver to aid tissue repair — but the cells come from the surrounding cavity, not from the blood.

Immune cells responding to injury have long been thought to migrate into tissues from the bloodstream. Some of these cells then mature into macrophages over 2–3 days to help heal wounds.

The team identified the molecular signals that drove this process, and suggest that it could occur in liver infection and in diseases such as cancer.

Cell http://doi.org/bd8b (2016)



Grubby mice improve science

Lab mice live such a privileged life their immune systems are pretty unchallenged, and that makes them a poor model for some immunological studies. The strategy described here is to co-house lab mice with grubby pet-shop mice and introduce them to a range of bugs.



Dissolving electrodes could ease pain of epilepsy surgery

Tested in rats - flexible electrodes have been created that dissolve harmlessly inside the brain after use. The US researchers that developed them believe that they could be used to pinpoint the source of epileptic seizures or monitor a patient's recovery after surgery before dissolving away, thereby removing the need for further surgery to extract the electrodes.



19/04 Combination immunotherapy treatment successful in patients after preclinical mice studies

A trial involving a combination immunotherapy treatment (ipilimumab and nivolumab) to treat advanced melanoma in 142 patients has shown promising results as a fifth of patients have have no sign of tumours after two years. Both drugs have become standard therapies in melanoma treatment, but most researchers believe combination therapy will be essential. The trial showed the survival rate after two years for ipilimumab alone was 53% and no patient's tumours had completely disappeared whereas the equivalent figures for combination therapy were 69% and 22%.

The success of ipilimumab and nivolumab in combination was originally seen in preclinical animal studies using mice.



Natural protein injections improve memory in mice with Alzheimer's

Injections with the natural protein treatment Interleukin 33 (IL 33) appear to improve memory and help clear and prevent brain deposits similar to those seen in people with Alzheimer's when studied in mice. The research was carried out at University of Glasgow and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology tested who bred mice to have brain changes akin to Alzheimer's. The rodents rapidly improved their memory and cognitive function to that of the age-matched normal mice within a week of having the injections.Tentative human studies of the treatment will soon begin, however it may take many years to know if it could help patients in real life. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this treatment will lessen the symptoms and progress of Alzheimer's dementia.



The Animal Health Trust are the 99th organisation to sign the Concordat on Openness.



18/4 Mouse study offers hope for prostate cancer treatment

A new experimental anti-cholesterol drug may prove to be useful in the fight against prostate cancer. It can cause cancerous cells, which use cholesterol to build their cell walls, to collapse. Studies showed that human tumours, implanted into mice, shrank as a result of the drug.


Monday Monkey Madness

Scientists found that during the birth of a golden snub-nosed monkey, a monkey - other than the mother - stands by the whole time to act as 'midwife'


This article was not tested on animals!

Understanding Animal Research want to see information provided in British high street shops to explain that no cosmetics are tested on animals here. Tom Holder, Head of Campaigns, explains how consumers are being misled by in-store labels about animal testing. Read his article here.



Sleeping immune cells in tumours can be 'woken up' to fight cancer

Scientists at Cancer Research UK and University College London have proven it is possible to use genetic editing to snip away the ‘off switch’ so that the immune system recognises cancer again.

Researchers say it is like ‘cutting the brakes’ and allowing immune cells to do the rest.

The treatment would work by taking a biopsy of a tumour and then identify immune cells that are already inside. Those cells are likely to me most effective as the fact that they are in the tumour suggests they were trying to attack it before they got switched off.

Scientists then use a genetic editing technique called TALEN to remove the ‘off switch’. The edited immune cells are then multiplied in a lab and replaced back in the body.


Stuttering mouse experiment sheds light on common human speech disorder

Genetic mutation given to squeaky rodents found halting patterns in early life squeaks, investigating causes of the human stammer

•  Mutations in the lysosomal enzyme-targeting pathway cause stuttering in humans
•  Mice with a mutation in this pathway also show abnormalities in vocalizations
•  Other behaviors in the knockin mice appear largely intact
•  People who stutter with this type of mutation have similar features in their speech


Each year more than two billion songbirds cross the Sahara

Using geolocation tracks from 27 pied flycatchers, a nocturnally migrating passerine, scientists showed that most birds made diurnal flights in both autumn and spring. These diurnal flights were estimated to be part of non-stop flights of mostly 40–60 h. In spring, birds flew across the Sahara, while autumn migration probably circumpassed part of the desert, through a long oversea flight.

Findings here: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/12/4/20151060


Mice with 3D printed ovaries have delivered healthy babies and had normal hormone cycles. The scientists at Northwestern made a ovary scaffold by 3D printing using gelatin - similar to the keratin found naturally in our bodies - before implanting the necessary cells needed to grow eggs. The next step will involve studies in pigs before human trials can be realised.

"Earlier this year, U.S. researchers managed to print ear, bone and muscle structures made from live cells that survived for months inside rodents - scans showed new tissue and blood vessels had formed around them."


Tiger numbers up

The number of tigers has risen by around 20% over the past five years, from 3,200 in 2010, to 3,890 in 2016, according to the WWF. However some experts warn that this may be a result of improved data gathering. However, not all the news is good - the the tiger is officially extinct in Cambodia.

Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF, said:
"More important than the absolute numbers is the trend, and we're seeing the trend going in the right direction,"


NC3Rs announce international 3Rs prizewinners

Speaking for Research covered the latest NC3R awards:

"they announced the winners of the 2015 international 3Rs prize, for the best papers developing an aspect of the 3Rs. There were two research papers jointly awarded the top prize. The first of the prizes was awarded to Dr Madeline Lancaster from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, for a paper (1) describing a 3D model of the embryonic human brain made from stem cells....

The second joint-winner was to Dr Laura Hall, from the University of Stirling, for her paper (2) on improving techniques for oral dosing in dogs, carried out with the support of AstraZeneca."


The Guardian view on vital medical research on primates: don’t give in to the animal rights advocates

"German researcher Nikos Logothetis has been driven from his primate lab. This is reminiscent of the prolonged campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences in this country. In both cases the opponents of all animal experimentation gain their ends by frightening anyone less passionately intense. We must resist them. On 3 June the EU will review its humane rules on animal experiments. They should not be changed. This is not a fight between intellect and emotion, or reason and feeling, but between two modes of feeling and in the end compassion for humans, and that urge to understand which seems uniquely human should triumph over sentimentality and fear."


Web tool aims to reduce flaws in animal studies

Funded by the NC3Rs, the Experimental Design Assistant (EDA) allows scientists to create a visual representation of an experiment by laying out its key elements — hypothesis, experimental method and planned analysis — in logically connected, coloured boxes. The software then uses a built-in set of rules to spot potential problems, and suggests refinements.



Lower doses of chemotherapy may work better

A mouse study of breast cancer suggests that lower doses of chemotherapy drugs may provide a better prognosis for patients that toxically high doses. The study found that tumours grew back soon after the treatment stopped, whereas an adaptive therapy which slowly reduced the dosage was better at controlling the cancer. 60-80% of the mice could be weaned off the treatment completely without relapsing.


Mice bred from lab created sperm

Healthy mice were bred from sperm cells created in a lab. It is hoped that this development could pave the way for new infertility treatments for men. The sperm were created from mouse stem cells.


Original Paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1934590916000187

New ebola treatment shows success in primates

A new ebola treatment derived from the blood of an ebola patient has successfully protected monkeys from the virus up to five days after they were infected. mAB114 will now be advancing into human trials. This is the first treatment made of a single antibody, rather than a cocktail of them – as previous treatments are.


Original Paper:http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2016/02/24/science.aad5224


Radical cancer treatment where tumours reduced in size but not destroyed successful in mice

Researchers at the Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida have developed a new cancer treatment where tumours are reduced in size but not completely destroyed, so that the surviving cancer cells stop more aggressive, drug-resistant ones from taking over. The chemotherapy drug Paclitaxel was tested in mice with two different forms of breast cancer. When the mice were given standard chemotherapy their tumours shrank, but grew back as soon as the treatment ended. When the new therapy was trailed, initially at a high dose followed by lower a dose, the treatment could be withdrawn completely with no further growth of the tumours in 60% of the mice. Whilst the strategy is still in the experimental stages having only been tested in mice, successful clinical trials in humans could usher in a transformation in cancer care, where patients live healthy lives with tumours that are constantly kept in check by low doses of medicine.


10 year anniversary of Pro-Test #ProTest10

Today is the 10-year anniversary of Pro-Test, a rally that saw students and academics stand up to animal rights extremism at the University of Oxford.

UAR: /news/communications-media/pro-test-10-year-anniversary/

Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/laurie-pycroft/pro-test-animal-research_b_9306118.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

Speaking of Research: http://speakingofresearch.com/2016/02/25/pro-test-the-demonstration-that-changed-a-decade/

The last airline flying – Lab Animal column

The March issue of Lab Animal magazine features an outreach column written by Kirk Leech, Executive Director of EARA. The article is about the importance of laboratory animal transportation in the first of a series of contributions to Lab Animal magazine.



African giant pouched rat sniffs out TB

Every year nine million new cases of TB are diagnosed worldwide, a quarter of which are in Africa. However, many patients are never diagnosed because the 125-year-old microscope-based test used in many cash-strapped countries such as Tanzania only picks up about 60% of cases and as low as 20% for people also infected with HIV. Antibiotics can cure the disease, but it is fatal if untreated. 30 African giant pouched rat are engaged in a programme to sniff out TB and whilst they aren't perfect they do detect about 70% of cases and whether or not a patient has HIV. TB has a distinctive smells thanks to the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis and African giant pouched rats are superlative sniffers hence their ability to sniff out the disease. Since the programme began the rats have screened 342,341 samples and identified 9,127 patients who had been told by the clinics that they did not have TB thus increasing TB case detection rate in the populations they are screening by around 40%.


Animal research played a key role in the development of the HPV vaccine

Since the vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) came on the market in June 2006 there has been a 64% reduction in number of infections amongst girls aged 14-19. Animal research played a key role in the development of the vaccine. In the 1930s rabbits were used to show the progression from viral infection to cancer and immunocompetent mice (mice that lack a functional immune system) proved to be an effective model in which to grow human papillomaviruses. Animal efficacy trials were conducted to test the species-specificity of the papilloma viruses, the bovine VLP based vaccine was found to protect against the virus in cattle, and subsequent species-specific versions of the VLP vaccines were tested in rabbits and dogs.



Work on zebrafish have raised questions about the safety of a common substitute for the controversial compound bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is used to make certain plastics and a number of countries have banned its use in food contact items such as baby bottles as it is a known endocrine disruptor. Accumulating research suggests that bisphenol S (BPS) – a preferred substitute for BPA – has a very similar toxicological profile to BPA, and may be no less harmful.


Legal tussle delays launch of huge toxicity database

Health risks of nearly 10,000 chemicals charted to help predict toxicity of untested substances.


Mice with bear bacteria got fatter

The scientists transferred bacteria flora from bears in winter hibernation as well as bears in summer to lab mice that were cultivated to be germ-free. It turned out that the mice which were given the summer flora of bacteria gained weight more readily. They also appeared to be safeguarded against some of the negative effects of obesity.


Toxic chemicals found in beached whales in Fife

A pod of whales stranded in Fife had high concentrations of toxic chemicals, some of which had reached the mammals' brains, scientists have found. The pod of long-finned pilot whales were stranded on a beach between Anstruther and Pittenweem on 2 September 2012. Out of the 31 mammals which beached, only 10 could be refloated and 21 - 16 females and five males - died. The tests were led by the University of Aberdeen and the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme. Scientists found mercury at levels high enough to cause severe neurological damage in humans and demonstrated for the first time that the toxic element cadmium can cross the blood-brain barrier.


Early humans NOT climate change were responsible for wiping out Australia's giant prehistoric animals

Australian scientist says humans caused megafauna extinction Human hunting is believed to be to blame rather than climate change One of the extinct animals was a giant 230 kilogram kangaroo


11/02/16: Baby giraffes steal milk

This behaviour makes up about 40 per cent of their suckling – the highest rate recorded in any non-domesticated mammal. The scientists observed 24 nursing giraffes and 37 calves at four zoos in the Czech Republic. They saw 83 per cent of mothers nursing a calf other than their own, and 87 per cent of calves suckling from a female that wasn’t their mother (Animal Behaviour, doi.org/bcbw).


Radiation causes cataracts in Chernobyl voles

30 years after Chernobyl the effects of chronic exposure to low radiation to wild animals remain largely unknown. New research suggests that chronic exposure to low radiation can cause damage to the eyes of wild animals. Higher frequencies of cataracts were found in the lenses of bank voles which had lived in areas where background radiation levels were elevated compared to areas with natural radiation levels. Cataract frequency increased with age in the voles, similarly as in humans generally. In addition, the effects of aging intensified as a result of elevated radiation. Lehmann P, Boratyński Z, Mappes T, Mousseau TA, Møller AP (2016) Fitness costs of increased cataract frequency and cumulative radiation dose in natural mammalian populations from Chernobyl.

Scientific Reports, 6, 19974. DOI: 10.1038 / srep19974

What can wolf dialects say about human language?

A new study suggests that wolves – in fact canids from different species and locations – howl in different 'dialects,' a discovery that could aid in understanding how human language develops.


10/02/16: Horses read human facial expressions

Horses can read human facial expressions, according to new research at the University of Sussex. The scientists showed images of happy or angry faces to 28 horses while monitoring their heart rate and which eye they used to assess the images. Horses use their left eye (controlled by the right hemisphere of their brain) to process negative stimuli - which they used when looking at angry faces.


Original Paper: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/12/2/20150907

Explaining animal research in the newspaper

Read our letter to the Belfast Telegraph about the important role of animals in research, a portion of which is copied below: While there is no universal "cure for cancer", as such, animal research has given us a huge number of treatments which have increased both the number of people getting the "all-clear" and the 10-year survival rate across a number of different cancers. Thanks to research using rats and mice, the 10-year survival rate for women with breast cancer, for instance, has increased from 40% in 1980 to 75% today. This is not research that should be abandoned.


Studies in rats show running can help learning

Studies in rats have shown that aerobic exercise can improve the parts of the brain responsible for learning. Rats either had a genetic predisposition towards high response to aerobic training (HRT) or a low response to aerobic training (LRT). Long distance running helped the development of hippocampul neurons, particularly in those rats predisposed to it.


09/02/16: Wbp2 gene expression linked to progressive hearing loss in mice

Researchers at King's College London and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have demonstrated that the loss of Wbp2 gene expression leads to progressive hearing loss in mice as well as in two clinical cases of children with deafness with no other obvious features. Progressive hearing loss is a very common disease however, very little is known about its molecular mechanisms therefore medical therapies have been lacking. Wbp2 was found to be involved in progressive hearing loss during a large-scale screen for hearing defects in newly-generated targeted mouse mutants. The finding of a new gene involved in human deafness following the initial discovery of its role in the mouse also emphasizes the value of mouse genetics research for better understanding human disease.


Parasite that breeds in cats has potential to affect human behaviour

Toxoplasma gondii, a microscopic parasite that breeds in cats has been found to make chimpanzees less fearful of predators, prompting scientists to believe that the microbe can also affect human behaviour when it infects people. Previous studies have shown that when the feline parasite infects mice, the rodents lose their natural fear of cats and now the same behavioural changes appear in infected chimpanzees as they become more attracted to the smell of leopards, their main predators in the wild. These findings support the controversial view that T. gondii may influence the behaviour of infected people i.e. slowing down their reaction times or making them more likely to take risks due to cysts forming in the amygdala, the brain region involved in fear. Some studies have even linked the parasite with psychotic disturbances in humans such as self-harm, suicide, and schizophrenia.


Human trials with  bionic limb to begin next year after testing in sheep

Australian scientists from the Royal Melbourne hospital, the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health have designed a "bionic spine", a tiny 3cm long device that will enable paralysed patients to walk again by allowing them to control bionic limbs with the power of subconscious thought. The device has only been tested in sheep but human trials will begin next year in three patients at the Royal Melbourne hospital. Previous devices designed to allow paraplegics to control the movement of their exoskeleton limbs using only thought have required invasive surgery, involving removing a piece of the skull which carries a risk of infection and other complications. However, the bionic spine is minimally invasive and less cumbersome than previously developed devices.


News 29/01/16

Modified male mice made viable sperm despite their lack of a Y chromosome.


In vivo screening

The study, published yesterday in Nature Communications, used high-speed, automated screening to test a library of ten thousand chemicals using cells and isolated molecular targets instead of laboratory animals.

Welfare e-learning course

A new e-learning resource focusing on the assessment of laboratory animal welfare has been launched to help researchers and animal care staff to identify signs of good and poor welfare in research animals.

News 28/01/16

Test results published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases last week show that a new testing device can detect infections by Schistosoma mansoni in mice with high accuracy from a drop of blood — and it can do so after only a week of infection.

Removal of a gene protected mice against arterial disease, and they stayed lean even when they ate more. The phenomenon underlying this beneficial phenotype is more active brown adipose tissue.

Pirkka-Pekka Laurila & al. USF1 deficiency activates brown adipose tissue and improves cardiometabolic health. Science Translational Medicine 27 January, 2016.


Fertility effects observed when pregnant rats are given paracetamol

In a study where rats were given paracetamol or the aspirin-like drug indomethacin, female animals gave birth to smaller litters of offspring that had smaller ovaries and fewer eggs than those not exposed to the medicines.


New treatment effectively halt progress of diabetes in mice

American researchers have managed to halt Type I Diabetes in mice for six months by using insulin-producing cells. The researchers used human stem cells to create insulin-producing islet cells, to treat the condition. Such a method might be a route to effectively cure Type I diabetes, which affects around 400,00 people in the UK and currently requires them to take daily injections.
According to The Times:
“After implantation in the mice, the cells began to produce insulin in response to blood glucose levels, which remained within a healthy range for the length of the study. The findings are published in the journals Nature Medicine and Nature Biotechnology.”
Also in Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12120141/Harvard-and-MIT-close-to-cure-for-Type-1-diabetes-which-will-end-daily-injections.html


Human ear grown on the back of a rat

Japanese scientists have grown a human ear on the back of a rat in order to help children born with facial abnormalities and adults who have suffered accidents. The ear was grown by turning stem cells into cartilage cells which were placed in inside plastic tubes shaped like a human ear on the rat’s back. The framework dissolved after two month leaving behind a two-inch ear lying flat against the animal’s back. Currently, replacement ears are sculpted from cartilage taken from the patient’s ribs, however this requires multiple operations including the painful removal of the cartilage from the chest which never fully heals. The new technique is one of several being perfected around the world, in the aim of making bespoke replacements for body parts damaged by accidents, ravaged by disease or malformed at birth.


News 22/01/16

Scientists successfully create cow cartilage in the lab - and hope they can now do the same for humans

Researchers have grown cartilage in the laboratory from cow knee joints. Team at in Umea University in Sweden hope it could be a cure for arthritis and replace artificial joints, which don't suit young people as don't last.


Researchers have identified a cellular switch that helps the mouse brain remember whether an environment is safe or not.

This article was accompanied by rash suggestions about potential use in treating post-traumatic stress - sometimes it would be nice if they just celebrated the elegant science!



Man makes deadly snakes bite him 160 times in hunt for human antidote

The bizarre story of the day, for more on venom derived drugs see our page here: http://www.animalresearch.info/en/drug-development/venom-derived-drugs/ but if you want to no more about the lunatic click here:

News 21/01/16

TRIM5α from the rhesus macaque (TRIM5αRh) is a restriction factor that shows strong activity against HIV-1

A protein found in both primates and humans may stop HIV progression and switch on the immune system, according to a  new study published January 14 in the journal, Heliyon.


So long suckers! Sex pheromone may combat destructive lampreys

Sea lampreys are a pest, particularly in the North American great lakes. Baiting lamprey traps with a pheromone, called 3kPZS, increased trap efficiency by 10% on average, and in some streams more than 30%.


New animals found: a news species of Himalayan thrush and a New Zealand frogfish

Thrush: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35361044

Frogfish: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fish-with-legs-new-zealand-bay-of-islands-a6823416.html


Cancer treatment successfully reverses signs of Alzheimer’s disease in mice

PD-1 blockers are used in immunotherapy treatment to fight cancer as they prevent the immune system from switching off, allowing a continuous cascade of immune cells to fight disease. When mice engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease were given a PD-1 blocker drug the amount of amyloid, the substance responsible for the toxic build up of plaques, in their brains halved and they were able to complete a maze task in the same time as the control mice. It is hoped that this already approved treatment will be successful at reversing Alzheimer's in people as there is yet no cure for the condition.


Sterile GM mosquitoes released into the wild in a bid to prevent Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus and Zika virus

The biotech company Intrexon is opening a factory in São Paulo, Brazil that will produce sterile GM mosquitoes in hope to reduce the wild insect populations by more than 90%. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes carry three viruses; Dengue fever; Chikungunya virus; and Zika virus. Zika has been linked with birth defects in Brazil in babies of mothers infected with the virus and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert last Friday advising pregnant women to avoid travelling to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where outbreaks of Zika have been registered. Intrexon said the new facility will be able to protect 300,000 people.


News 19/01/16

High dose of cocaine in mice causes brain cells to eat themselves

Research in mice has found that high doses of cocaine can cause brain cells to eat itself, technically referred to as autophagy, a process by which cells digest themselves. Postmortems on the brains of mice given high doses of cocaine and the brains of mice whose mothers received cocaine while pregnant showed clear signs of autophagy-induced cell death. However, an experimental drug called CGP3466B was able to protect the cells from cocaine induced autophagy. This drug has already been tested in clinical trials to treat Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease and is known to be safe in humans however, more research is needed to find out whether it can prevent cocaine induced autophagy in people.


Biodegradable implant successfully measures pressure and temperature in the brain of rats

Research in rats has shown that a small biodegradable surgical implant can monitor variations in the intracranial pressure between the brain and skull as well as measuring temperature in this sensitive part of the body before dissolving completely. It is hoped that the biodegradable implant will be suitable for monitoring a patient’s medical recovery without the need for an operation to remove the implant once its job is done. Existing implants are often cumbersome and pose the risk of immune rejection and infections caused by repeat surgery therefore this would provide a less invasive alternative.


Biomarker detected in mice urine identifies early stage Alzheimer's Disease

A biomarker detecting early stages of Alzheimer's disease (before memory loss begins) has been identified in mice urine. The biomarker left a particular odour in the urine of mice with Alzheimer's-related brain pathology that was distinguishable from the healthy mice. The breakthrough could provide early diagnosis of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders through a simple non-invasive urine test.



Urine smell test can detect Alzheimer's in mouse model before other symptoms show

The study published in the journal Scientific Reports involved the study of three separate mouse models, known as APP mice, which mimic Alzheimer's-related brain pathology.

Using both behavioural and chemical analyses, it was found each strain of APP mice produced urinary odour profiles that could be distinguished from those of control mice.


PCB chemical threat to Europe's killer whales and dolphins

Blubber PCB concentrations initially declined following a mid-1980s EU ban, but have since stabilised in UK harbour porpoises and SDs in the western Mediterranean Sea. Some small or declining populations of BNDs and KWs in the NE Atlantic were associated with low recruitment, consistent with PCB-induced reproductive toxicity. Despite regulations and mitigation measures to reduce PCB pollution, their biomagnification in marine food webs continues to cause severe impacts among cetacean top predators in European seas.


These baboons and lemurs have left the trees to live in caves

A group of chacma baboons in South Africa’s De Hoop Nature Reserve and a group of ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar have been spotted taking shelter and even sleeping in caves – much as early humans used to do.


When you eat matters as well as what you eat

Work on mice showed that eating all your food within 8 hours resulted in less weight gain than spreading your meals over the usual (in my case at least) 16 hours. A trial in people came up with similar results. In our office we decided that breakfast at 10.30 and tea at 6.30 was the way to go - with lunch around 1.00 as usual!


Day in the life of an African watering hole

See this remarkable photo, made up of 50 images: Simply called Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. American photograph Stephen Wilkes took a total of 2,200 images in March last year, over the course of 26 hours. Although it looks like a time-lapse image, every moment was manually captured by Wilkes as he studied the scene

He captured some of Africa's most iconic creatures - including wildebeest, elephants, zebras and even mongoose.

View here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3398562/Day-life-African-watering-hole-Breathtaking-composite-photograph-captures-flow-elephants-zebras-hyenas-hippos-26-hours-Serengeti.html#ixzz3xDjDP8wy

Great white shark's predatory behavior captured by underwater drone video

A team of marine biologists discovered that great white sharks ambush prey from ocean’s dark depths, as they attacked drones recording their movements.



Research in mice identifies pair of genes that could play major role in acute myeloid leukaemia

Research funded by Cancer Research UK and Bloodwise has identified a pair of genes (KDM4C and PRMT1) that could play a major role in the development of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). KDM4C and PRMT1 knock out mice with a form of leukaemia displayed significant survival rates after a 60-day period compared to the group of mice who did not review treatment - the majority of mice died in under 40 days. AML affects 2,800 patients in the UK each year and treatment involves aggressive chemotherapy with only one in five patients surviving for five years or more, therefore this research could provide a much needed new avenue for treatment.


Mice research shows being overweight or obese may increase risk of aggressive prostate cancer 

Studies in mice have found that the spreading of cancerous cells outside the prostate was greater in obese mice, feed a high fat diet, than compared to mice with normal body weight. The cancerous cells were linked to higher levels of the protein CCL7 which is found in fat cells and its target receptor CCR3. Subsequent studies of 100 human tumour samples confirmed that the aggressive cancers tended to have more CCR3 receptors than less aggressive ones. The results from this study highlight that being overweight or obese may increase a man's risk of aggressive prostate cancer and that drugs blocking the CCL7 protein could help treat men before the disease becomes too advanced.


Nontoxic compound CGP3466B delivers antidepressant effects to mice within hours instead of weeks and months 

New research has shown that the compound CGP3466B, which has previously be shown to block cocaine craving in the brains of rodents, delivers antidepressant effects to mice within hours instead of weeks or months, like currently available antidepressants. Two standard behavioural tests were used to assess the antidepressant effect of CGP3466B. The first tested how quickly mice give up trying to escape from a pool of water and compared to normal mice given no treatment, mice given CGP3466B spent an average of an extra half a minute working the problem. In the second test, treated mice were twice as fast to brave an unsheltered new environment to get a piece of food. CGP3466B has already been proved non-toxic and non-addictive in phase I clinical trials that explored its use for Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s diseases, therefore the researchers are optimistic about it's use as an antidepressant, however it will take several more years to get the compound into phase II clinical trials to test its effectiveness.


News 11/01/15

Reducing inflammation can slow Alzheimer's

Studies in laboratory mice and deceased Alzheimer’s patients shows the key role of microglia, a type of immune cell, in causing brain inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s. It is believed that this inflammation is not a side effect of the disease, but drives its progression – this means that preventing the inflammation could potentially prevent the disease getting worse. Experiments in mice to reduce the inflammation successfully prevented the memory problems in mice, that are normally associated with the disease.

Reprogramming Skin Cells to fight Diabetes

Scientists have managed to reprogramme human skin cells into the cells of the pancreas which are responsible for insulin-production. The cells were turned to an embryonic-like state before being turned into the "beta" cells of the pancreas. The researchers used these cells on mice, giving them protection against diabetes. It is hoped that this same technique could be used on diabetic humans.


Transplantation HopeScientists have been implanting human-animal hybrid embryos into dozens of sheep and pigs in a bid to grow human organs for transplantation. By modifying the DNA of the embryos they can prevent certain organ tissues from being created, then use the human DNA to encourage a human-version of the organ to be grown inside the animal. The technology is not entirely new; for many years scientists have been humanising the immune systems of mice in order to understand diseases and test new medicines.


News 05/01/16

Stressed chickens

Domesticated animals are less nervous or anxious around people than their wild ancestors. Anxiety can be a component of mental illness so researchers bred domestic chickens with wild fowl to re-introduce 'anxiety' and in so doing find the genes involved. They found some, and that these genes were similar to functionally related genes already found in mice.
A novel chicken genomic model for anxiety behaviour by M. Johnsson, M.J. Williams, P. Jensen & D. Wright. Genetics, January 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.116.179010

Gigantopithecus, which roamed the Earth 100,000 years ago, failed to adapt when climate change affected its favoured diet of fruit


Virgin Births May Be Common among Snakes

Facultative parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction in an otherwise sexually reproducing species, appears to be quite common among snakes and may represent a potentially important feature of vertebrate evolution. On the other hand, obligate parthogenesis—when organisms exclusively reproduce through asexual means—is extremely rare in snakes.

The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2015, 00, 000–000 DOI: 10.1111/bij.12744

News 04/01/15

Treating Duchenne's in mice with gene editing

Researchers at Duke University have used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to treat Duchenne Musclular Dystrophy in mice. Scientists removed the faulty bit of DNA which prevented production of a protein necessary for the proper functioning of the muscles in the mice. The treatment showed improved heart and lung muscle function in the animals. 

Also in The Times: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4653748.ece
The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/gene-editing-could-fight-musclar-dystrophy-says-new-research-a6792286.html
The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/31/breakthrough-offers-hope-to-those-with-duchenne-muscular-dystrophy

News 26/11/15

A bubble-based micro-vesicle treatment that could ease the pain of arthritis and cut the need for hip replacements. It uses tiny particles that are naturally made by the body to protect and repair damaged joints.

In experiments on arthritic mice, an injection of the micro-vesicles into the joints reduced cartilage damage. Plus, arthritis was worse in mice that made lower than usual levels of these micro-vesicles. The protein may even repair damage.



News 25/11/15

GM fruit flies used to combat disease

Scientists in Australia prepare to release a large number of genetically modified Mediterranean fruit flies which have a gene which prevents female flies reaching adulthood.


Cats get Asthma too!

One of the reasons we use animals in medical research is because they suffer from many of the same diseases we do. This is beneficial not only to the development of human medicines, but also to the development of veterinary ones. Max the asthmatic cat is a good example how animals (originally guinea pigs) helped develop human medicine (asthma inhalers) which went on to help animals (like Max).


News 24/11/15

Protein that triggers insulin production in pancreatic cells successfully tested in mice

Scientists have discovered that when non-beta cells in the pancreas are exposed to the growth factor protein BMP-7, they begin to produce insulin. When the protein was added to a soup of non insulin producing pancreatic cells and injected into diabetic mice, the cells began to secrete insulin and behave like healthy beta cells. This is excellent news for type 1 diabetics who cannot produce their own insulin and have to inject themselves daily. The next step is to inject the protein directly into the pancreas to stimulate the creation of new beta cells, allied with a small amount of immunosuppressive drugs to stop the new insulin factories being destroyed by the immune system.


Running prevents postnatal side effects of epilepsy drug in mice

Research shows that prenatal exposure to the commonly used anti-epileptic drug valproic acid can cause lower IQ scores and wide-ranging cognitive deficits in childhood and because the underlying molecular mechanisms is unclear, there is currently no effective treatments for affected children of epileptic mothers who took antiepileptic drugs during pregnancy. Research using mice has revealed that prenatal exposure to VPA inhibits the birth of new neurons in the brains of adult mice and impaired their performance on learning and memory tasks, however these postnatal side effects were largely prevented when the mice were given access to a running wheel at a young age. Whilst further research is needed (the study was conducted on non-epileptic pregnant mice) as it is not clear how exercise improves cognitive performance, addressing these issues will be important for developing appropriate therapies for people with epilepsy as 30% of sufferers are women of a childbearing age.



News 20/11/15

How to save a species

Jennifer Crees at the Zoological Society of London and her colleagues analysed 48 mammalian conservation programmes, ranging from the successful protection of the golden lion tamarin (pictured) to the failed attempt to save the Yangtze River dolphin. Whereas national-level legislation did not necessarily lead to good outcomes, intensity of local law enforcement did. Moreover, reducing the threats to animals — such as habitat loss and hunting — was crucial for long-term survival.

No link was found between the outcomes of recovery programmes and biological factors such as body mass and habitat type, suggesting that well-designed conservation programmes should work across different species.

Conserv. Biol. http://doi.org/87v (2015)

Fish aggregating device use rising

The number of controversial fish aggregating devices (FADs) being used in the oceans is rising. Using data from tuna-fishing boats (see chart), a 6 November report from the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that between 81,000 and 121,000 FADs were set adrift in 2013 — and their use is growing (see go.nature.com/ngeubv). These FADs are free-floating, so fish and other animals shelter underneath and become easier to catch. But researchers warn that the devices encourage overfishing, and kill vulnerable species.

Tasmanian devils: Disease-free animals transported back to wild

A group of Tasmanian Devils are being reintroduced to their natural habitat in Tasmania, as part of a plan designed to save the carnivorous marsupials from a cancer threatening them with extinction.

Devil Facial Tumour Disease has caused the population to plummet to around 10,000 from an estimated 250,000 before 1996, when the disease was discovered.

A group of 22 of the creatures were flown from Devil Ark, a disease-free captive breeding facility at Barrington Tops, near Sydney, to Tasmania


News 19/11/15

Lethal amphibian disease controlled

For the first time, researchers have eliminated a devastating amphibian fungal disease in a population of toads. The chytrid fungus is highly infectious and is responsible for devastating amphibian populations worldwide. Over five years, a team of researchers was able to clear the disease from toads which are native to the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Details of the work are published in the journal Biology Letters.

Spinal nerve regrowth in cats

The recreation of neurones necessary to breathing would be reformed after injury, and despite not functioning the same as prior to the injury, they nonetheless did not impede respiratory function. The cats were fully anaesthetised throughout the research to minimise any pain or discomfort. 


Doctors grow vocal cords

Doctors built the vocal cords using cells from human donors. The donated vocal fold cells came from one cadaver and four patients who’d had their larynxes removed surgically for various reasons. The team grew the cells in the lab for two weeks to create 170 vocal folds, around 16 millimetres in length and a millimetre thick.

Translational Medicine: DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab4014

News 18/11/15

Humans can out learn chimps thanks to more flexible brain genetics

Chimpanzees are incredibly intelligent thanks to the neocortex region of their brain, however new research reveals that their brain power pales in comparison to that of a human. To study how genetics play a role in development of the brain, scientists from The George Washington University examined the brains of 218 humans and 206 chimpanzees using MRI scans. Whilst the brain continues to grow and organize (plasticity) in both humans and chimps, allowing us to learn and develop socially, genetics play at much stronger role in a chimps brain development whilst humans are influenced more by environmental factors. Relative to newborn chimpanzees, human babies are born with less developed brains which may also be a contributing factor to our increased neural plasticity.


Two chemical scents in female mice urine identified to arouse sexual behaviour in male mice

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine have identified two chemical scents in female mice urine that arouse sexual behaviour in males, a discovery that shines a spotlight on how mouse pheromones control behaviour. Using a new technique to identify pheromones in complex mixtures, 23 potentially relevant chemicals in male and female mouse urine were identified from a list of 1,600. The chemicals were then narrowed down two 2 when focusing on neurons that fired in response to all samples of female urine but no samples of male urine. The firing patterns of the male olfactory neurons in different strains of mice when exposed to various female urine samples implicated the two specific chemicals, providing the first evidence that they have a role in social communication by activating neurons in the nose.


Research in rats reveals that activation of designer neural receptors can suppress food cravings

Research using rats reveals that activation of designer neural receptors in the brain can suppress food cravings. Environmental cues such as the sight or smell of food play a large role in cravings and the ventral pallidum region of the brain has been identified as a key region during human imaging studies. Using the technique DREADD (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs) the ventral pallidum was inactivated in rats and thus their interest in cues predicting food decreased. These findings could be used to curb overeating as well as other kinds of addiction.


News 17/11/2015

Youthful Cartilage Cells Protect Zebrafish Against Arthritis

Irx7, a gene belonging to the Iroquis gene family has been identified as protecting against arthritis by keeping joint cartilage young in zebrahfish. In order to study joint cartilage, the researchers, from Keck School of Medicine examined the hyoid joint of the zebrafish jaw, which contains high levels of Irx7 and found that when zebrafish lacked the gene, their jaws grew the wrong kind of cartilage. Research in mice also showed that a related Iroquis gene controlled cartilage maturation in mice therefore it is hoped that this research could result in better treatments for arthritis.


Genetically engineered algae selectively kills cancer cells

A team of Australian and German scientists have created a cancer treatment using genetically modified algae that selectively kills cancerous cells. The ability to selectively kill cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed is the ultimate goal for anti cancer therapeutics as existing treatments such as chemotherapy kill cancer cells as well as healthy cells thus causing unpleasant side effects for patients. Previous selective technique include silca-based nanoparticles, however the production process is expensive and involves the use of toxic chemicals whilst natural silica based algae nanoparticles provides a lower-cost alternative.


Wild chimpanzee observed caring for disabled infant

A team of researchers from Kyoto University in Japan have observed a wild, female chimpanzee caring for a severely disabled infant in the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania over a two-year period. The infant was born in 2011 and displayed symptoms resembling Down's syndrome seen in other captive chimps. She lived for 23 months and researchers doubt she would have stayed alive for so long without the help and care of her mother and sister.


Tiny protein compasses found in fruit flies

A team of scientists at Peking University have discovered minuscule magnetic field sensors in fruit flies that align themselves with Earth’s geomagnetic field lines thus acting as biological compasses When study the fruit fly genome the protein, MagR was discovered to form rod-like clumps with cryptochrome proteins which behave like magnetic sensors sensing the direction, intensity or inclination of Earth’s magnetic field. The team also discovered that the MagR-cryptochrome compass can form in a range of species, including monarch butterflies, pigeons, rats, minke whales and humans.


News 16/11/2015

The Royal Veterinary college is conducting work in beagles to understand the progression, and find potential treatments, for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - a muscle wasting disease. The disease affects around 2,500 boys in the UK - resulting in most being wheelchair bound by the age of 12. The researchers are using MRIs to study the action of the heart of the DMD dogs


Also in the Daily Mail but with some animal rights comments: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3319176/Scientists-breed-beagles-muscular-dystrophy-bid-develop-drugs-beat-killer-disease.html

They say 'til death do us part' and male great tits take this very literally - they would rather starve than leave their partner. While birds are generally monogamous animals, male tits would not search for food if it involved leaving their partner.


Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research, and Natasha Martineau of Imperial College London, spoke about openness in animal research a packed event at the Academy of Medical Sciences. Openness has been the key theme of recent years, with the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK now signing up 96 members.


News 13/11/15

Domestication of wild animals was one of the most important steps in the development of agriculture. Dogs, cows, sheep, goats and pigs were domesticated between 15,000 and 9,000 years ago, but the rabbit held out until 1400 years ago.

A group of monks in southern France were the first who managed to domesticate rabbits, for a rather unusual reason. It is said that the Catholic Church had declared meat from young rabbits to be a kind of fish; therefore, it could be eaten during Lent.


Batten disease may benefit from gene therapy

In a study of dogs, scientists showed that a new way to deliver replacement genes may be effective at slowing the development of childhood Batten disease, a rare and fatal neurological disorder. The key may be to inject viruses that carry the codes for the gene products into the ventricles, which are fluid-filled compartments in the center of the brain that serve as a plumbing system.

If they treated dogs that have a similar disorder by injecting a safe virus containing the TPP1 gene code into the cerebrospinal fluid that fills ventricles, the dogs lived about twice as long as untreated dogs.


Needlefish have been seen shooting out of the water before smashing into schools of unsuspecting prey in the waters near Heron Island and North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, Australia.

“This is, as far as we know, the first time anyone has described a fish jumping out of the water to attack submerged prey,” says Ryan Day of the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia.


J. Fish Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jfb.12799 (2015)

As wildlife declines and thousands of people die from dirty air, big reductions in environmental spending threaten to make things worse, says Mike Clarke

Some 60 per cent of UK species are in decline. We struggle to meet basic targets for conserving special protected areas that are home to habitats vital for wildlife, including migratory birds. And almost 30,000 people die prematurely each year because of air pollution.


How mice regrow ear tissue

Blocking a specific cell-signalling pathway in mice boosts the regeneration of ear tissue without any scarring after injury.

Some amphibians and fish can regrow organs and appendages. To investigate the process in mammals, Thomas Leung, Seung Kim and their colleagues at Stanford University in California studied an engineered mouse model that is adept at regrowing injured ear tissue with no scarring.

Genes Dev. 29, 2097–2107 (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gad.267724.115

High levels of vitamin C can slow the growth of colorectal tumours in mice

Lewis Cantley at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and his colleagues studied human colorectal cancer cells with mutations in either the KRAS or the BRAF genes, which are commonly mutated in people with this type of cancer. High doses of vitamin C stunted colorectal tumour growth in KRAS-mutant mice.

Science http://doi.org/83w (2015)


News 12/11/15

Hammerhead sharks tagged by free divers to avoid stressing the sharks

Hammerhead sharks can die of stress if caught so a gentler approach is being taken to tag them.


Neolithic farmers exploited honeybees

Beeswax residues show the extent of early honeybee exploitation starting around 7000 years ago in Europe.



 Gene-editing technologies have breathed life into the languishing field of xenotransplantation

Researchers have modified more than 60 genes in their effort to enable organ transplants into humans, but so far pig transplants into primates have only lasted a few days.


 Climate shift ushers in subtropical butterfly


Gene-editing people

As various advisory bodies, scientific organizations and funding agencies deliberate on genome editing in humans, Debra J. H. Mathews, Robin Lovell-Badge (UAR council member) lay out some key points for consideration.



Canadian scientists have managed to use tiny gas-filled bubbles to get chemotherapy drugs past the brain's protective layer. The technique is being used in six humans who will undergo a trial at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. It is hoped such techniques could be used to treat other diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The work comes after a decade of research in many different animal models.



A new vaccine has managed to significantly lower cholesterol levels in mice and macaque monkeys. The vaccine targets the PCSK9 protein, which make it harder for cholesterol to be flushed out of the body. People without this protein have reduced risk of heart disease.


Meningitis A has almost been obliterated in Africa thanks to a widespread vaccination programme. Meningitis A ha flu-like symptoms that can lead to convulsions coma and death, however vaccination is an effective way of preventing this.



The coywolf’s DNA is mostly coyote, with 25 percent wolf and ten percent dog, according to research by Javier Monzón of Stony Brook University, who analyzed the DNA of 437 coywolves.



Patients with glioblastoma, a type of malignant brain tumor, usually survive fewer than 15 months following diagnosis. Since there are no effective treatments for the deadly disease, University of California, San Diego researchers developed a new computational strategy to search for molecules that could be developed into glioblastoma drugs. In mouse models of human glioblastoma, one molecule they found shrank the average tumor size by half. The study is published October 30 by Oncotarget.


Peptide Blocks Oxidant Amplification Responsible for Obesity in Mice

Researchers have discovered a mechanism that blocks the signal for oxidant amplification that leads to obesity and metabolic syndrome, according to Science Advances.


Your sense of smell might be more important than you think. It could indicate how well your immune system is functioning, a study in mice suggests. Fulvio D’Acquisto at Queen Mary University of London and his colleagues studied mice missing a recombinant activating gene (RAG), which controls the development of immune cells. Without it, mice lack a working immune system and some genes are expressed differently, including those involved in the olfactory system. “That rang bells, because people with immune deficiencies often lose their sense of smell,” says D’Acquisto.


Journal reference: Frontiers in Neuroscience, DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00318

New Caledonian crows are adept tool users, sculpting twigs to hook hidden food. To see how this skill might have spread, Christian Rutz at the University of St Andrews in the UK and his team used radio tags to track 42 wild crows.

They found that crows normally spent time nearest to close relatives, keeping their distance from other crow families. But that changed when the team left them a log filled with inaccessible beetle larvae that could only be retrieved using tools. Then the segregation broke down and unrelated crows started associating, says Rutz.


Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8197


Microscopic liposomes could be used to carry around and 'detonate' cancer killing drugs in tumours. Early tests in animals have shown to be promising. Tests in mice with melanomas showed that these 'thermal grenades' could improve the uptake of drugs - improving survival rates.


While most of us would run away from scorpions, Jim Olson (an Oncologist in Seattle) is using them to help fight cancer. Olson created a "tumour paint" which can attach itself to cancer cells and light them up. The paint is developed from a compound, chlorotoxin, found in scorpion venom. And it wasn't just arthropods that helped with this discovery - mice too!


The only wild beavers in England have disappeared. It is unknown if the animals are alive, or if they have merely been scared away by public activity.



A study in rats suggests that a cheap asthma drug may help rejuvenate ageing brains. A six week study showed that montelukast improved memory and learning in old rodents by reducing inflammation in the brain and encouraging the growth of fresh neurons. The study involved rats remembering where platforms in a swim test were located.


Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, has responded to a recent question in parliament by reaffirming the importance of animal research to developing new medicines and treatments. Johnson also spoke about the key role that the Government is playing in supporting the 3Rs of Replacement, Refinement and Reduction:


A new drug may kill or weaken mosquitoes who tried to feed on those who take it. Ivermectin, primarily used for killing roundworm, kills or weakens insects that ingest it, including mosquitoes. A study in four villages in Burkina Faso has not yet concluded, but early analysis suggests this strategy may work to reduce malaria incidence.



Last week the popular Facebook group "Humans of New York" featured Nichole Danzi, an associate research scientist at Columbia University's Center for Translational Immunology. She stated that she can put your entire immune system into the body of a mouse! Using NSG mice and transplanting a small piece of a human thymus, the scientists are able to grow a human immune system in the mouse starting from the most immature blood stem cells.


Researchers from HHMI Janelia Research Campus in Virginia, USA have created a virtual reality (VR) system for mice to help understand the brain, in hope that it will increase understanding about diseases such as Alzheimer's whilst also reducing the number of animals used in neuroscience research. The system uses a pair of movable walls to "tickle" the whiskers on each side of a mouse's face. By moving the walls in the shape of a virtual tunnel the mice can be tricked into thinking they are inside the real thing.


For over 100 years it was thought that only one species of giant tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri) existed on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz thanks to research by American naturalist Rollo Beck. However, in 2005 geneticists demonstrated that there appear to be two distinct species on the island, living just 20 km apart but with clear genetic differences indicating that they have been heading in different evolutionary directions for at least 1.7 million years. This has now been confirmed with the two species being recognised as the Western Santa Cruz tortoise (C. porteri) and the Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise (C. donfaustoi).



Nilotinib, an approved drug used to treat leukaemia has dramatically reduce symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease or a similar condition called dementia with Lewy bodies during a six-month pilot study. Initially, in vitro experiments illustrated that the drug was able to clear the neurotoxic protein associated with Parkinson's in brain cells. This was followed by experiments in transgenic mice that were almost completely paralyzed from Parkinson's disease; when given the treatment they were able to move almost as well as healthy mice. If the drug's effectiveness is confirmed in larger, placebo-controlled studies, nilotinib could become the first treatment to interrupt a process that kills brain cells in Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's.


 Scientists at Stanford University have discovered cells that can grow into fresh arteries and restore blood supply to the heart thus providing a natural treatment for heart disease in patients having experienced, or are at risk from, a heart attack. Studies in mice have used fluorescent tagging to track the cells (pericytes) that form arterial muscle and the signals that tell them to grow. If the signals can be mimicked by a drug, then heart cells could potentially be persuaded to form fresh arteries on the heart’s surface, through which blood can flow. More research in mice is needed before clinical trials can begin plus the British Heart Foundation are currently funding research in pigs, however this could provide a promising new treatment for heart disease and heart attacks, which affect 124,000 people in the UK year.


Researchers from the University College Cork have found that healthy men taking a daily capsule of probiotic bacteria called Bifidobacterium longum 1714 experienced less stress and anxiety, and fared better on memory tests compared to those who took a placebo. Initial research carried out in mice successfully illustrated a similar memory improvement and antidepressant effect. More studies are needed to learn how B. longum might have an effect on the brain however this is step forward in creating a probiotic suitable for treating mental health disorders.



Many animal studies are being poorly reported in top journals, according to a new paper by Malcolm Macleod. There has been a vast improvement between 1992 and 2011, with reporting of randomisation rsing from 14% to 42%, and reporting of blinding and conflicts of interest also rising, but many papers are still not providing this information - making research harder to reproduce (a cornerstone of scientific method).
Original Paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1002273

There are less than a million hedgehogs estimated to be living in the UK, down from 36.5 million in 1950. Wildlife groups are urging people to have hedges rather than fences, and to use organic slug pellets.


CRISPR, a new gene editing method has been used to manipulate pig DNA, making it a better match to human DNA in hopes of engineering safer pig organs for human transplants. The pig genome has 62 copies of porcine endogenous retroviruses which researchers were able to eliminate in pig embryos in the lab using CRISPR. The modified pig cells were unable to pass the retrovirus on to human cells and with more research it is hoped that modified animal organs will one day be used for human transplants.


Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have identified a specific protein in a malarial parasite that has the ability to latch onto cells found in 90% of tumour types. The protein was isolated and combined with the diphtheria toxin, whereupon it was used to treat genetically engineered mice that had three types of human tumour; prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a breast cancer that had spread into their bones, subsequently causing the tumours to dramatically shrink. This promising research could pave the way to a broad spectrum cancer therapy, with clinical trials staring within five years.


A new AIDS vaccine trial will commence in the USA, developed over 15 years by Robert Gallo, the scientist who discovered the link between HIV and AIDS in 1984. A phase 1 clinical trial is being conducted in 60 volunteers and will test the safety and immune responses of the vaccine, therefore it will take a while before we know if it is more effect than the other 100+ AIDS vaccines that have been trialled over the past 30 years but so far extensive testing in monkeys has proven successful.


This week we are featuring a page from the NC3Rs website that provides advice on the housing of laboratory dogs. The page includes a number of video clips, mostly with audio commentary, images and comprehensive textual information that demonstrate aspects of dog behaviour and management. This page provides advice on the housing of laboratory dogs, tools for their welfare assessment, and suggestions for refinement of procedures used in safety assessment studies.


The sighting of a Bewick's swan from Russia on Sunday is the earlier recorded autumn arrival of a migratory swan since studies on the species began more than 50 years ago thus prompting conservationists to speculate that the country is in for a long, cold winter. Previous studies have shown that weather is a major influence on when Bewick's swans migrate and with unusually cold weather hitting parts of western Russia and Eastern Europe this is encouraging the swans to press on with their westward migration. Before the arrival of this swan, the record holders for the earliest arrivals were a couple called Tomato and Ketchup who arrived on 12 October 1980.



“Every baby elephant should be dropping dead of colon cancer at age 3,” said Dr. Joshua D. Schiffman, a pediatric oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

Writing Thursday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Schiffman and his colleagues report that elephants appear to be exceptional cancer fighters, using a special set of proteins to kill off damaged cells.



A tiny piece of a rat’s brain has been reconstructed in minute detail in a computer. The digital piece of brain, which includes 31,000 neurons and their 37 million synapses, fires like the real thing, and is already revealing fresh clues as to how the brain works.


The Mouse Grimace Scale needs further research before it can be considered an effective tool for routine pain assessment in laboratory animals, according to recent study in PLOS One. The study found that baseline (non-painful) scores varied significantly between the some strains and sexes of laboratory mice, indicating that consistency is potentially dependent on having baseline scores for any animal being assessed for pain.



Horse tissue from horses that died of grass sickness contained proteins that are commonly seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease - such as the build-up of amyloid protein.


Scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham have been funded to develop a gel that will match many of the biological structures of human breast tissue, to advance cancer research and reduce animal testing.


Infection can trigger leukaemia in genetically susceptible mice, suggesting an environmental cause for the most common type of childhood cancer.

Children with precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia often have mutations in the PAX5 gene, which is involved in immune-cell development, but the mutations alone do not cause the disease.

Cancer Discov. http://doi.org/73j


The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Tomas Lindahl (The Crick), Paul Modrich (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and Aziz Sancar (UNC Chapel Hill) for “mechanistic studies of DNA repair”. Both Lindahl and Modrich have been involved with mouse studies into DNA repair in the past, however, much of their work was in E.coli.


Giraffes spines went through evolutionary "spurts", starting 16 million years ago. Its extremely long neck allows it to reach vegetation not available to other animals, filling a niche in the African ecology.


Researchers at Stony Brook University used kinematic analysis to compare the locomotion of humans and chimpanzees. Chimps' upper bodies twist slightly when walking, although less than humans. The researchers had to train two chimps, Leo and Hercules, to walk upright, to test their theory.




Do you have what it takes to win a Nobel Prize? Try our new and updated Nobel prize quiz and discover if you're a Nobel Laureate or a Nobel Liability.

Click the Link and Take the Quiz. Share with your friends and find out who is destined for greatness.


Work at The Rockefeller University using zebra finches may give researchers a new tool to study the vocal and speech impairments associated with Huntington’s disease. Unlike rats and mice, songbirds learn vocalisations like humans therefore making them a more appropriate animal model. Zebra finches were bred with the mutant human gene mHTT which is responsible for the disease and as they grew the symptoms of the disease became more apparent. These changes were monitored using specialized computer software allowing researchers to make assumptions based on how the human brain circuit changes.


Ocata Therapeutics and its collaborators have successfully used its proprietary hemangio-derived mesenchymal cell (HMCTM) technology to treat dogs with a form of Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder that currently affects 115,000 people in the UK; the autoimmune attack against cells of the GI tract is thought to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors but standard treatment can cause serious side effects after long term use. Six dogs resistant to standard treatment were injected with human pluripotent stem cell-derived mesenchymal cells and after three months were free of major physical signs of the disease. This successful research could be used to target the disease in Crohn's patients.


 Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce insulin, meaning that patients have to give themselves daily injections to control blood sugar levels. Scientists from Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc have researched a technique that would allow patients to forgo daily injections by “rebooting” ordinary pancreatic cells so they produce insulin. Pancreatic duct cells were extracted from non-diabetic dead donors and grown in the lab until they differentiated into insulin-producing cells after exposure to fatty particles containing the genetic material that activates insulin production. The cells were implanted into diabetic mice to determine if they secrete insulin in a way that controls blood sugar levels and according to the researchers, the results are encouraging. The research is being submitted for publication and if successful the technique will eventually be trialled in humans.



The 2015 Nobel prize in medicine or physiology has been won by William C Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura and Youyou Tu. Campbell and Ōmura discovered a new drug Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, caused by roundworm parasites. Tu discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria.As with the vast majority of the work awarded Nobel prizes in the past, animal research played a key part in their work.


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