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.
- HIV vaccine candidate provides promising results. An experimental HIV vaccine has protected mice, guinea pigs and monkeys from dozens of HIV strains — now human trials are set to begin in the second half of 2019. To accomplish this feat, the researchers began by detecting powerful HIV antibodies that can neutralize several strains of the virus. They then elicited those antibodies with a vaccine based on the structure of the HIV surface protein where the antibodies bind. NIAID director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated, “this elegant study is a potentially important step forward in the ongoing quest to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine.” Published in Nature Medicine.
- Tiny implants to monitor health and deliver treatments. Scientists are developing tiny, wireless devices that can be implanted in the body and can be used to deliver drugs, treat disease or monitor a person’s health. Because radio waves do not easily penetrate the body, the researchers had to develop a new type of antenna system that overcomes the issue. Tests involving pigs demonstrated that implants can be communicated with as far as a meter away when surgically placed at a depth of 10 centimeters. An update on the work is scheduled to be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Data Communication annual conference in August.
- Immunizing against debilitating stress. Brain inflammation induced by stress is directly linked with increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety, and an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder and other mood-related disorders. New research demonstrates that mice injected with the bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, have significantly less brain inflammation from social stress than mice without the injection. The demonstrated neuroprotective effect of this vaccine, offers new hope for therapies that may reduce debilitating stress responses for humans at high risk for mood-related disorders; soldiers or emergency room workers. Published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
- Overtaxing working memory disrupts brain synchrony. We know that the brain can only hold seven items, plus or minus two for attention and cognitive tasks — and now we understand the neural underpinnings why. By recording brain waves in monkeys during a working memory task, scientists found that the brain areas associated with working memory communicated less with one another when overtaxed. This research has major consequences for understanding cognitive disorders and how we define intelligence and consciousness. Published in Cerebral Cortex.
- CRISPR scientists wins $1m Kavli Prize. Prof Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Institute), Prof Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkely) and Prof Virginijus Siksnys (Vilnius University) won the Kavli Prize “for the invention of CRISPR-Cas9, a precise nanotool for editing DNA, causing a revolution in biology, agriculture and medicine”. CRISPR-Cas9 has been used extensively to genetically alter laboratory animals – particularly mice and fish – to allow them to better model human disease. Charpentier and Doudna has previously won the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their work on CRISPR.