This Week in Animal Research 12th-18th July
A “biological pacemaker”, created by injecting a specific gene into heart cells, has effectively cured a disease in pigs that causes a very slow heart rate. Researchers from the Ceders-Sinai Institute in Los Angeles injected the gene into pigs with the heart condition, which cause normal heart cells to convert to a rarer type of cell that keeps the heat beating in rhythm. The patch of cells, no larger than a peppercorn, acted successfully as a pacemaker for two weeks.
Mouse studies have provided the first evidence for how the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis can slow the growth of cancer tumours. UK scientists have identified two specific receptors that appear to be responsible for Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC’s anti-cancer properties. The researchers insist that studies like this should not encourage cancer patients to self-medicate, but hope that in the future they can create a safer synthetic alternative.
A single protein has appeared to reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes in obese mice. FGF1 already plays a natural role in human cell growth and tissue repair, but does not normally enter the blood stream. When injected into a muscle the mice’ blood sugar levels were dramatically reduced, and continued treatment with the protein reversed their insulin insensitivity.
A Danish study has identified a gene linked with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in mice that the researchers believe could have the same activity in humans. A defect in the sorcs2 gene prevents nerve cells in the brain’s reward system from creating the right contacts and communicating properly. Even though the same gene exists in humans and the defect is very likely to lead to ADHD, the researchers also note that not all cases of ADHD can be explained by this one cause.
A chemical found in cinnamon could protect the brain against Parkinson’s disease according to research using mice. The liver converts cinnamon into sodium benzoate, which stops the loss of brain proteins that protect neurons from damage. Feeding with cinnamon also improved the motor function of mice with Parkinson’s-like symptoms.
Researchers have inserted a modified form of a human alcohol target into a nematode worm. The alcohol target forms part of the nervous system and normally binds the alcohol molecules, creating its intoxicating effects. The modified form blocks this and prevents the worms from getting drunk. The scientists hope that this research could lead to new treatments for alcoholism and alcohol abuse.