Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These 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.
- Scientists aim to stop pandemics. Viral outbreaks of new and emergent diseases are becoming more and more common — for example the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo. Now scientists have proposed an innovative solution — the Global Vironome Project. This project studies wild animals that are known vectors for diseases, such as primates, rodents and birds, with the aim of identifying unknown viruses and so that counter measures such as vaccines can be developed. While this project is not without disagreement, if successful it may save millions of dollars and countless lives.
- New approach to insulin pills may replace injections. People living with Type I diabetes must inject themselves with insulin between two and four times a day, which can be painful and lead to non-compliance. In a new approach, researchers dispersed insulin in choline and geranic acid, which protected the hormone from being broken down by stomach acid and enabled it to pass through the intestines into the bloodstream. When given to rats, the animals’ blood sugar fell by 62% in the first two hours and remained low at 55% of initial levels at 10 hours. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- The neurotransmitter serotonin may impact learning, in addition to an organism’s mood. Previous research has linked serotonin to memory and neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt.) The latest studies have uncovered the neurotransmitter’s role in learning. More specifically, the research identified how serotonin impacted the ability of mice to adapt their behavior to a variety of situations, such as change in the way water was dispensed in their cages. Published in Nature Communications.
- CRISPR gene editing reduces autism behavior For the first time, scientists have altered mouse behavior using the gene editing technique; CRISPR-Gold. Previous research has linked a brain receptor, metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5), to repetitive behavior when excited — a symptom of autism. Scientists used CRISPR-Gold to edit the receptor and reduced obsessive digging behavior by 30 percent and repetitive leaping actions dropped by 70 percent. Although the process cannot be used in humans, because it involves brain injections, it reveals the promising future applications of CRISPR. Published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
- Polio outbreak declared in Papa New Guinea after the virus was detected in a six-year old boy and then further detected in children in the same community. Yet around the world polio is in full retreat with only 22 cases of polio detected in 2017. The cause of the current outbreak, however, has been attributed to poor sanitation, hygiene and low vaccination rates. This should serve as a reminder of the importance of vaccinating your children — at its peak polio crippled over 1000 children daily in more that 125 countries. A vaccination was only made possible thanks to animal research in mice, rats and monkeys.