This week in animal research 091216
Encapsulated cells diabetes treatment
A cell-based diabetes treatment has been developed by scientists who say it could eliminate the need for those with the condition to inject insulin.
The therapy involves a capsule of genetically engineered cells implanted under the skin that automatically release insulin as required. Diabetic mice that were treated with the cells were found to have normal blood sugar levels for several weeks.
Scientists said they hope to obtain a clinical trial licence to test the technology in patients within two years.
Toxin resistant fish
Atlantic killifish taken from four sites on the United States’ east coast were found to be up to 8,000 times more resistant to a complex mix of chemicals such as dioxins, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other substances.
The researchers sequenced the genome of nearly 400 killifish and found they had managed to adapt to their new environment.
This was because they had a high degree of genetic difference between individuals, which is a distinct advantage when the environment changes dramatically.
'Beautiful' dinosaur tail found preserved in amber
The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years.
Examination of the specimen suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside.
The tail is described in the journal Current Biology.
'Flashing light therapy' for Alzheimer's
A flashing light therapy might help ward off Alzheimer's, say US scientists after promising trials in mice.
The Massachusetts team found shining a strobe light into rodents' eyes encouraged protective microglia scavenger cells to gobble up the harmful proteins that accumulate in the brain in this type of dementia.
The perfect rate of flashes was 40 per second - a barely perceptible flicker, four times as fast as a disco strobe.
The mice that they studied were genetically engineered to have Alzheimer's-type damage in their brain, Nature journal reports.
Fats fuel metastasis
The cells responsible for cancer’s spread — and for most deaths from cancer — may have a fatal weakness according to studies in mice: a reliance on certain fats to fuel their invasion.
Benitah and his team found that high CD36 expression was required for metastasis in mice. Antibodies that blocked CD36 — and eliminated its interaction with fatty acids — completely inhibited metastasis, although they did not affect the development of primary tumours.
Benitah notes that such a therapy may be effective even after cancer has started to spread: in mice, experimental antibodies eradicated metastatic tumours 15% of the time. The remaining metastatic tumours shrunk by at least 80%.
Giraffes facing 'silent extinction' as population plunges
A dramatic drop in giraffe populations over the past 30 years has seen the world's tallest land mammal classified as vulnerable to extinction.
Numbers have gone from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The iconic animal has declined because of habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa.