Research Roundup: Studying deadly cancers in dogs, low calorie diet and type 2 diabetes and more!

Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday 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.

  • “Researchers are turning to the family dog to find clues in hopes to find a cure for one of the deadliest forms of cancer.” Glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer, killed over 15,000 people in 2015 and also affects dogs.  Researchers say that microscopic evaluation of the cancers in dogs and humans are very similar.  Roel Verhaak, a biologist and professor at Jackson Labs, says the goal of this research is to find anything, “ prolong life expectancy and ultimately a cure.”  He and his team hope to find specific areas in the cells of the donated cancer tumors from dogs that are abnormal and compare them to abnormalities in the human form of the cancer.  Once this is clear, focus on faster ways to diagnose the cancer and more effective treatments can be developed.
Example of a short nosed dog.
  • Are all laboratory mice the same? Lab mice are commonly inbred through brother-sister mating. This practice of inbreeding allows researchers to study mice that are virtually genetically identical, thereby standardizing genes within and between experiments. However, between every 10 to 30 generations, new mutations pop up due to genetic drift — thus, not all mice are identical across generations despite inbreeding. To understand the degree of this problem, researchers at JAX “reset” the genetic mutations in 2005 by only selling C57BL/6 (B6) mice from an ancestral Adam and Eve. They then froze hundreds of embryos of the duo’s grandchildren to maintain genetically identical mice for 25-30 years, thereby bypassing issues of genetic drift. In a presentation at the American Society for Human Genetics’ Meeting, JAX scientists reported that their ancestral B6 mice have different genomes than B6 mice used by other breeding centers (e.g. Charles River) and the reference B6 genome all scientists use from 2002. The research will not be published until early 2018, so we will have to wait until then to learn how much genetic drift may be affecting experiments.
The C57BL/6 mouse.
  • The link between gut bacteria, high salt diet, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Consuming a high salt diet is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. In the present study researchers investigated whether consuming a high salt diet affects the gut microbiome and whether this would be linked to subsequent detrimental health effects. In mice and humans, they found that a high salt diet let to a decrease in Lactobacillus bacteria in the gut and increased blood pressure. When given a probiotic, they found that that the bacteria and blood pressure levels remained unchanged. Professor Alm, the lead author on this research states ““We hope that our findings, along with future studies, will help to shed more light on the mechanism by which a high-salt diet influences disease.” This research was published in the journal Nature.
  • Low calorie diet reverses type 2 diabetes through multiple pathways. It is known that a low calorie diet can reverse type 2 diabetes — but the mechanism via which a low calorie diet exerts these effects is poorly understood. Using rats, researchers found that after only three days of being provided a very low calorie diet, specific metabolic processes in the liver were altered and which corresponded to the lowering of blood glucose concentrations. Professor Schulman stated: “These results, if confirmed in humans, will provide us with novel drug targets to more effectively treat patients with type 2 diabetes.”  This research was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.