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.
- The gut-brain axis, also includes the kidneys. Researchers at the University of Florida have introduced a new hypothesis on a gut-brain-kidney axis, which can have large impacts on therapies for chronic kidney disease and hypertension. Research on mice and humans has demonstrated that gut microbiota — microorganisms in the gut — interact with the brain, and affect hormone and immune responses. Gut microbiota also affect blood pressure and kidney function, thereby affecting hypertension and chronic kidney disease. Hypertension can lead to heart attack or stroke, and is associated with chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease can cause a whole host of problems, and may ultimately result in kidney failure, requiring dialysis. The new gut-brain-kidney hypothesis offers new therapies for future experiments. For example, changing gut microbiota through dietary interventions, probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, or a fecal microbiota transplant may improve kidney health and blood pressure. Published in Nature Reviews Nephrology.
- Moderate UV light exposure makes mice smarter. Shaved mice exposed to a low dose of UVB light for two hours showed increased brain activity and better performance on motor learning and recognition memory tasks than unexposed mice. Researchers at the University of Science Technology of China discovered that this UV exposure led to increased levels of urocanic acid in the mouse brain, which resulted in increased glutamate production and enhanced electrical transmission between glutaminergic neurons. Similar results were achieved when urocanic acid was administered directly to unexposed mice, which indicates that the benefits of UV exposure may be attained without the damaging effects of UV rays. This work was published in Cell.
- Monkeys essential to effective Ebola vaccine. The use of a new Ebola vaccine was used for the first time this week in the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The vaccine has been proven safe and effective in nonhuman primates but this is the first time it is being used in a real-world setting. The approach being used is called a “ring vaccination trial,” in which people exposed to Ebola, including health workers and citizens, are vaccinated in an attempt protect them and prevent further spread of the disease. Early results show that this method works which may lead to a shift in the way these types of outbreaks are managed in the future. Tom Geisbert is a scientists that worked with nonhuman primates in the early-2000 to test the vaccine. He says, “You put your staff at risk. You put yourself at risk. And when you get something that works, do you know how exciting that is? How awesome that is not to see animals get sick?” He and other scientists are thrilled to see lives being saved and are mindful of all the people, animals, and hard work it has taken to develop a vaccine that was previously thought impossible for a disease as devastating as Ebola.
- Blood from the umbilical cord helps patients recover from stroke. In a recent clinical trial, ten patients received infusions of umbilical blood showed improvements in speech, vision and movement three months after stroke. However, it should be noted there was no placebo group. The clinical trial was informed by numerous studies in rats (e.g. Willing et al., 2003; Vendrama et al, 2004; Nan et al., 2006) that showed improved outcomes following ischemic stroke. Originally published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.
- “Researchers have created a three-dimensional representation of a mouse retina by crowdsourcing its development through an online game. By getting around 30,000 people to assemble neuron-like puzzle pieces, the researchers were able to create a map of the mouse retina. The model will be used as a simplified model for studying sight and diseases of the eye. It turns out video games might not be such a “waste of time”. Published in Cell.”