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.
- Tiny implantable device is a ‘huge advance’ for the treatment of severe heart failure. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and their collaborators are jointly developing a device to assist those suffering from severe heart failure. The implantable clip is able to help repair the mitral valve in the heart, which frequently becomes damaged as a result of heart disease. The device is currently being tested in humans. Prior to clinical trials, the technology was perfected in pigs. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
- Paralyzed patients walk again thanks to epidural stimulation. Two groups of scientists have this week reported that a group of paraplegic patients are now able to walk thanks to electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (epidural stimulation) coupled with physical therapy. The development and validation of this technique owes much to early work pioneered in rats and is a good example of relevant timescales between proof of principle in animal models and application to humans. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine and in Nature Medicine.
- Gene editing to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases. Researchers have used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique to target the doublesex gene rendering mosquitos sterile; potentially heralding an era without diseases born by these insects. Edited females didn’t develop normally, could not reproduce, and did not develop the long proboscis needed to bite humans and suck blood while males developed normally further spreading the gene mutation. There is, however, still much to learn before this technique is taken mainstream — such as the development of further mutations. Published in Nature Biotechnology.
- The amount that of sleep a person needs may be tied to their genetics. Researchers studying mice at the University of Tsukuba in Japan say that a single gene mutation appears to regulate the amount of sleep that animals need. The scientists focused on SIK3 protein mutations. They found that by mutating the 551st amino acid in SIK3, the impacted mice required more sleep and slept longer periods. The scientists believe the findings may offer new insights into human sleeping habits. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Fighting skin cancer with chemotherapy hydrogel. Scientists have developed a new chemotherapy hydrogel that can be applied directly on melanoma tumors and used in conjunction with paclitaxel — a chemotherapy drug — to slow the cancer’s growth in mice. This treatment could reduce the troublesome and harmful side-effects of chemotherapy injections, which are often required to combat skin cancer, despite the melanoma being visible on the skin. It remains unclear if the new hydrogel will translate to humans, or if it can be used without some chemotherapy injections. However, it marks a first step in home-treatment of skin cancer. Published in ACS Nano.