This week in animal research 21/10/16
Stroke treatment device tested on macaques and healthy humans enters trials
In what could be a significant breakthrough for stroke patients, researchers at Newcastle University have developed a smartphone-sized device with the potential to restore movement to partially paralysed hands.
This device is now being trialled with 150 stroke patients in Kolkata.
The surprising effect of adding sound to an electric shock appears to be the stimulation of a faster and much more powerful response from the brain. The effect was first noticed and then developed during work with macaque monkeys. Newcastle University’s Professor Stuart Baker, lead author of the paper recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience emphasised the importance of this careful animal research in making their breakthrough.
‘We would never have thought of using audible clicks unless we had the recordings from primates to show us that this might work. Furthermore, it is our earlier work in primates which shows that the connections we are changing are definitely involved in stroke recovery.’
REFERENCE: Spike-timing Dependent Plasticity in the Long Latency Stretch Reflex Following Paired Stimulation from a Wearable Electronic Device. KH.M. Riashad Foysal, Felipe de Carvalho, Stuart N. Baker.
BBC takes a look at primate research
The BBC takes a look at the scientific and ethical arguments for and against the use of primates in research. The journalist Tom Feilden went around the laboratory at Newcastle University. This story comes only a month after 600 primate scientists and neuroscientists signed a letter explaining the important role of primates in medical and scientific research.
You can listen to more on the Today Programme:
Tom Feilden at 33m31s
Colin Blakemore at 2h10m9s
Jane Goodall at 1hr13m30s
Promising HIV therapy
A new therapy for HIV shows promise in monkeys. A combination of drugs was able to protect rhesus macaques for two years from SIV - the monkey (simian) version of HIV. The combination included standard antiretroviral drugs and combined it with an experimental antibody.
Artificial Mouse Eggs Created
Scientists have successfully created artificial mouse eggs in research that could have far-reaching consequences for human fertility treatment. The mouse eggs were developed by manipulating embryonic stem cells and skin tissue cells taken from mouse tails. The eggs were later fertilised and the resulting embryos implanted in female mice some of which gave birth to apparently healthy pups. The research, led by Katsuhiko Hayashi at Kyushu University, raises the intriguing possibility of human fertility treatment based on artificially created human eggs, although the technical viability of such therapies is still a long way off even leaving aside possible ethical or legal complications.
A new source of antibiotics
Scientists at Sydney University say that the milk of Tasmanian devils contain important peptides that could be used to create new antibiotics. Wallabies and opossums also have some of these peptides. One of the peptides in particular - Saha-CATH5 - was found to be effective at killing the superbug, MRSA.
Cold cure for bladder cancer
A drug used to treat the common cold could be used to stop the spread of bladder cancer, a study has found.
Researchers in Japan found that a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug suppressed the spread of the cancer in mice and also reduced its resistance to chemotherapy.
The results raise hopes of a cure for a disease that killed more than 5,000 people in the UK alone in 2014.
Immature human neurons repair mouse spinal injury
Chronic pain and loss of bladder control are among the most devastating consequences of spinal cord injury, rated by many patients as a higher priority for treatment than paralysis or numbness. Now a UC San Francisco team has transplanted immature human neurons into mice with spinal cord injuries, and shown that the cells successfully wire up with the damaged spinal cord to improve bladder control and reduce pain. This is a key step towards developing cell therapies for spinal cord injury in humans, say the researchers, who are currently working to develop the technique for future clinical trials.