This week in animal research: w/e 19 September

19 September 2014

Posted by: UAR news team

Category: Research & medical benefits

week-animal-research–8.jpgMice genetically engineered to carry a human gene linked to speech and language learned new ways to find food in mazes faster than normal mice. By isolating the effects of one gene, the work sheds light on its function and hints at the evolutionary changes that led to the unique capabilities of the human brain. Mice had the option to navigate a maze using either landmarks or by the feel of the maze floor. By day seven mice with the human gene had learned the route as well as regular mice did by day eleven.

An animal hospital in Melbourne, Australia has successfully operated on a goldfish named George to remove a large tumour from his head. Through a post the hospital revealed how the operation was performed. First George was placed into a bucket containing a knock out dose of anaesthetic, and once he was asleep a tube containing water and a maintenance dose of anaesthetic was run through his mouth and over his gills. The tumour was extracted using a “gelatine sponge” to control the bleeding, before the wound was sealed with tissue glue. George was then placed in a “recovery unit” of clean water and given both antibiotic and analgesic injections. The ten year old fish is now expected to live a further 20 years.

Studies in mice suggest that sugar-free sweeteners are linked to obesity and diabetes. Giving mice water laced with three commonly used sweeteners in doses corresponding to those recommended for humans caused the animals to develop glucose intolerance, a condition that can lead to Type-2 diabetes. The same results were also observed in a small group of human volunteers. The lead researcher, Dr Eran Elinav, from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, said: “This calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.” However, the small number of human participants has prompted other researchers to argue that further confirmation in a larger group of volunteers would be required.

Parrot intelligence is linked to the complexity of their social arrangements. Parakeet society has ‘layers’ of relationships, similar to those documented in other big-brained animals, with birds forming different levels of attachment and interaction with other individuals. The ability to recognise and remember others, and whether they are friendly or not, is believed to be a significant evolutionary driver of brain size.

The first healthy volunteer has been injected with an experimental Ebola vaccine as part of a human clinical trial in Oxford. The vaccine had previously been proven effective in monkeys, and this trial will determine whether the vaccine can cause an effective immune response in humans. 60 volunteers initially will receive the vaccine, with the trial being extended to Africa next month. The vaccine contains only a small portion of genetic material from the virus, so it cannot cause the disease.

A protein found in umbilical cord stem cell blood could be used to treat leukaemia according to studies in mice. UM171 increases the number of stem cells present in umbilical cord blood, making its use as a treatment for adult patients viable for the first time. Typically the number of stem cells obtained is too low to be useful for adult patients. Guy Sauvageau, a haematologist at the University of Montreal, who led the work, said: “This . . . will allow thousands of patients around the world access to a safer stem cell transplant.”

Last edited: 2 October 2014 09:31