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.
- Promising results of vaccine against most aggressive type of brain cancer. Glioblastoma is a deadly type of brain cancer, characterized by rapid progression and resistance to current treatments. The majority of patients die within 2 years of diagnosis, even with intensive care consisting of combined surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The results of a clinical trial by a multinational team, demonstrated that addition of a newly developed immunotherapy vaccine to the treatment increases the average survival time twofold, allowing some patients to survive for more than 7 years while retaining an active life. This vaccine, developed in studies using rats, works by taking dendritic cells (a type of cell from the immune system) from the patient’s bodies, and exposing them to a sample of their tumors. When the cells are injected back in the body, the immune system recognizes and attacks the cancer cells. Published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.
- Exercise can improve nervous system function. Astronauts and patients with chronic movement-limb pathologies may experience long periods of muscle disuse leading to consequent pathological effects. New research in mice this week demonstrates that neural stem cells (NSCs) are a responsible mediator in the development of these pathological effects. This research could assist with efforts to combat neuron disease, multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy. It may also provide insights and assistance in developing strategies to combat motor skills issues that astronauts face when living in a gravity-free environment. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience
- Compound found to reverse the demyelinating effects of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often debilitating disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own central nervous system. This manifests as an inflammatory response, progressively eroding the insulating myelin that wraps around the nerves and spinal cord. In a recent study using mouse models of MS, researchers at the University of California have identified that a compound called indazole chloride may be able to reverse this demyelination and restore the resulting loss of function. Indazole chloride works by removing dead cells and molecules associated with damaged tissue, triggering cascades of other biochemical signals that allow the areas to heal. This finding may one day lead to better treatment options for patients of MS, who currently only have access to drugs that abate further damage, as opposed to reversing the damage that has already occurred. Published in PNAS.
- Combating illness caused by cancer therapy. While CAR-T therapies are potent tools for combatting several cancers, they have their downsides. They can have toxic side effects that cause illness called cytokine release syndrome. Recently, two research teams – one in the U.S. and one in Italy – came up with promising new strategies to avoid the disease using mouse models. One utilizes a key molecule, IL-1, that blocks the disease. The other team used genetically-modified T cells to prevent the disease from arising at all. Both studies are published in the journal Nature Medicine.
- Desire for sugar modified in mouse brains. The question of how the brain encodes meaning of sweetness and bitterness has long intrigued researchers. Previously, using mice, these researchers identified how sweet and bitter chemicals are detected in the mouth and tongue and how they signal a part of the brain called the insular cortex; now they have figured out how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to our perception of it. The accomplished this by using genetically modified mice, whose brains respond to light stimuli, and found that neurons connecting the insular cortex to the amygdala were responsible for the perception of sweetness and bitterness. These results are important, and potentially be used to inform treatments of the worldwide obesity epidemic. Published in Nature.