The week in animal research: w/e 10 October

10 October 2014

Posted by: Richard Scrase

Category: Communications & media

the-week-in-animal-research-we 10Oct.jpg06/10/14
The Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine has been awarded to three scientists who discovered the brain's "GPS system". UK-based researcher Prof John O'Keefe as well as May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser share the award. They discovered how the brain knows where we are and is able to navigate from one place to another. Prof O'Keefe, from University College London, discovered the first part of the brain's internal positioning system in 1971. He showed that a set of nerve cells became activated whenever a rat was in one location in a room.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, published as nearly 200 countries meet on Monday in South Korea in a bid to tackle biodiversity loss, paints a damning picture of governments’ efforts to meet a set of targets agreed in 2010 to slow the destruction of species’ habitats, cut pollution and stop overfishing by the end of the decade. Conservationists said the lack of progress, nearly halfway to the 2020 deadline for the targets, was a troubling sign and a reality check.

Super-effective cancer-fighting berry discovered growing in Australia
A drug has been manufactured using a compound from this berry, and it has so far been used to treat face and neck tumours on 300 animals, including cats, dogs, horses, and Tasmanian devils. Human trials have now been approved.

Zebras attracted to lethal anthrax grass
When zebra die, their carcasses fertilize the ground and the vegetation is greener and richer in nutrients around them live zebras take advantage of these spots and prefer them for grazing. However, anthrax bacteria – that infect grazing herbivores by ingestion - from the carcasses also survive in the soil and vegetation at such spots and will kill within a few days. Moreover, anthrax prevents blood from clotting and prior to death, blood sprouts out from the victim’s orifices, which means that the infected carcases might release even more nutrients into the soil. This could make these spots even more mouth-watering to herbivores.

A breakthrough in type-1 diabetes, which affects about 400,000 children and adults in Britain, has resulted from a study showing that it is possible to make vast quantities of insulin-producing cells for patient transplants.

Millions of birds die in collisions with windows. Ultraviolet patterns can make window glass visible to birds, thus preventing fatal collisions. However, it has now been shown that such windows are not likely to work for all species, but only for birds like small passerines, gulls and parrots, who have a special type of colour vision. For birds of prey, geese, pigeons and crows, these patterns should be difficult to detect.