This week in animal research: w/e 19 December
Derby was born with malformed front legs. His owners had some custom 3D printed prosthetic legs made for him and he can now run and play like a normal dog
“The first time he was put on them, he took off running,” Sherri Portanova, who recently adopted Derby, said of the dog’s experience with his new “legs.” “I was absolutely amazed at how well he did.”
Starved female mantises deceive males into approaching them by using false pheromone signals. Males prefer to mate with well-fed females, as they are able to make large numbers of eggs and are less likely to try and eat an amorous male. Female false garden mantises that were fed just a quarter of what others got actually produced more pheromones than well-fed females, and attracted almost twice as many males. This is the first experimental demonstration of sexual deception using false chemical signals – the Femme Fatale hypothesis of sexual cannibalism (yes, this is a thing).
The pig is the next new model of inherited arrhythmic syndrome. This first large animal model for the disease will help better understand the biologic mechanisms in normal heart conduction and rhythm.
Until now, researchers have primarily used cultured heart cells and mouse models to study cardiac arrhythmias. “But because of similarities of the pig heart to human hearts, research with the pig model will prove invaluable in gaining further insights into the mechanisms that underlie life-threatening arrhythmias,” said Glenn Fishman, the study’s senior author.
Part of the knee called meniscus has been regenerated using a 3D printed scaffold infused with human growth factors and has been successfully tested in sheep. This could provide the first effective and long lasting repair of damaged menisci, a problem for millions of people.
“At present, there’s little that orthopedists can do to regenerate a torn knee meniscus,” said study leader Jeremy Mao, the Edwin S. Robinson Professor of Dentistry (in Orthopedic Surgery) at the Medical Center. “Some small tears can be sewn back in place, but larger tears have to be surgically removed. While removal helps reduce pain and swelling, it leaves the knee without the natural shock absorber between the femur and tibia, which greatly increases the risk of arthritis.”
“This research, although preliminary, demonstrates the potential for an innovative approach to meniscus regeneration,” said co-author Scott Rodeo, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon and researcher at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “This would potentially be applicable to the many patients who undergo meniscus removal each year.”
Genetically altered mice have shown that it is possible to regulate processes within the body remotely, opening the door to new ways of treating chronic disease. The mice had three genes introduced to their liver cells that respond to radio signals and stimulate insulin production. Several hours after exposure to a radio signal the mouse showed a significant drop in blood glucose. While gene therapy treatments like this are a long way from clinical application, but researchers say that this is the first step to offering patients external control over their conditions.
Climate change shifts the bird population in your back yard. As winters have gotten warmer – the earth’s average temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1970 - some species have moved farther north. Over two decades of data show birds such as cardinals and Carolina wrens wintering farther north than they did 20 years ago to keep pace with the conditions they are used to.
The shuffling of bird communities “could alter the interactions between bird species, possibly with some northerly species being outcompeted by new arriving species,” explains Karine Princé, a wildlife biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That may lead to the formation of new communities of birds. “We still have to explore the consequences of such changes.”