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.
- Tissue that has been freeze-dried and then re-hydrated was successfully transplanted for the first time using sheep. The researchers at Leibniz Research Labs for Biotechnology and Artificial Organs in Germany freeze-dried the heart valves of sheep. These can be stored almost indefinitely in airtight containers at room temperature (rather than needing to be kept in cold storage). The tissue was then re-hydrated and transplanted into another sheep. These researchers think that that this process can also easily be applied to other organs. Published in Acta Biomaterialia.
- Cracking the Brain’s Enigma Code. Researchers are working to decode neural signals into movements as a way to advance brain-controlled prosthetic devices. Dr. Eva Dyer wanted to find out if cryptography could be used to decode neural signals into movements. She worked with three monkeys to gather the data needed for her proposed decoder. The monkeys were trained to perform specific actions while their neural activity was measured. The study results showed that the new decoder only required general statistics about movements, versus the very detailed data needed by traditional decoders, and could effectively predict movements. They also found that movement patterns from one monkey was also able to be applied to that of another monkey, which is not currently possible with current decoders. Since movements are often similar across animals and people, Dyers team is hopeful that this may be able to reduce the time and effort involved in collecting meticulously detailed movement data. This study was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
- A gene therapy has allowed mice with Type I diabetes to temporarily produce insulin. Insulin is ordinarily created by beta-cells in the pancreas. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School used a adeno-associated virus to induce pancreatic alpha cells to produce the insulin. The mice thrived for four months before an immune reaction destroyed those insulin-producing cells. The research was published in Cell Stem Cell.
- Deep sea creatures provide a guiding light in the quest to develop cancer therapies. Researchers use the bioluminescence properties of deep sea shrimp and other crustaceans to develop an inexpensive, effective test to determine cell death when testing immunotherapies. A team of scientists at the Keck University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine treated cancer cells with luciferase, the enzyme responsible for how these species “glow.” When a cell with luciferase cell dies, the enzyme leaks out of the cell causing it to illuminate. This allowed researchers to identify the death of a single cell after treatment with an immunotherapy agent in just thirty minutes. The rapid results and inexpensive test will save time and money leading to expedited treatments for patients. Published in Scientific Reports.
- Once-a-week pill for HIV shows promise in animals. A team of researchers work with pigs to develop a slow-release mechanism to deliver HIV drugs. Giovanni Traverso, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said: “We wanted to come up with a system to make it easier for patients to stick to taking their treatments. The mechanism is taken as a regular pill but once it reaches the stomach, a star-shaped device unfolds and begins to slowly release the medication. More studies are needed in other species such as nonhuman primates to confirm its effectiveness and safety. Clinical trials for the mechanism may begin within the year with researchers hopeful to begin clinical trials that include the HIV medication in two years. Preliminary studies are also evaluating its use for other diseases such as malaria. This study was published in Nature Communications.