Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.
- Rare benign tumors hold the ‘genetic recipe’ to combat diabetes. Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are studying insulinomas — benign tumors that contain a mechanism for regeneration of insulin-producing human beta cells, in mice and humans. They are hopeful that this may hold the key to the development of better drugs for the millions living with diabetes. Dr. Andrew Stewart, Director of the Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine and lead author of the study said, “For the first time, we have a genomic recipe—an actual wiring diagram in molecular terms that demonstrates how beta cells replicate.” He and a team of international researchers analyzed the genomics and expression patterns of 38 human insulinomas and found a map for beta cell replication. These cells are required for insulin secretion which regulates sugar in the bloodstream. Lack of insulin leads to diabetes causing severe disease and even death. The identification of this map offers a target for new drugs to help these patients. This study was published online in Nature Communications.
- Scientists cure blindness in mice using gene therapy. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition that leads to a gradual reduction in vision. It affects around 1 in 4,000 people making it the most common form of blindness in young people. Researchers at the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford used a modified virus to insert a gene into retinal cells of mice. The gene expressed a light-sensitive protein, melanopsin, which sent visual signals to the brain. The researchers believe this gene therapy may be easier to administer than an electronic retina which the team has also worked on. The research was published in PNAS.
- DNA-delivered antibodies used to fight bacterial infections. Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies made by identical immune cells — basically clones of a unique parent cell. In the present experiment, mice were injected with the genetic sequence for a monoclonal antibody which targeted Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a life-threatening, multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogen. This approach allows antibodies to be produced in vivo within the host, and is in contrast to current methods which require large quantities to be delivered via intravenous drip. Mice were successfully inoculated using this approach, “providing a proof-of-concept for a potentially cheaper and faster alternative to current monoclonal antibody treatments.” This research was published in Nature Communications.
- CRISPR-Cas9 used to point mutation in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. It is an X-linked recessive inherited disorder, although a third of the cases are due to a mutation in the gene that codes for the protein dystrophin. Researchers were able to successfully repair this mutation in a mouse model by injecting “a vehicle they call CRISPR-Gold, which contains the Cas9 protein, guide RNA, and donor DNA, all wrapped around a tiny gold ball.” While there is still a lot of work to be done before a cure for this disorder is finalized, this research provides new hope for individuals affected with this disorder. This research was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
- Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to three scientists for their discovery of the mechanisms of circadian rhythms. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to three U.S. scientists “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”. These researchers, who worked with fruit flies, found that our “inner clock” adapts functions like behavior, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature according to the 24 hour cycle. Their work also indicated that when the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it can impact health and well-being.