Research Roundup: gene editing of embryos to prevent congenital disease, offspring born to same-sexed mice and more!

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.

  • Gene editing of embryos to prevent congenital disease A ground-breaking study has successfully used CRISPR gene-editing technology to prevent mice from being born with a lethal liver disease; tyrosinemia type I — which is present in humans. The experiment was conducted on mouse embryos that were genetically engineered to have the liver disease. Embryos were removed from the mother, the appropriate genes were edited, the embryos were then re-implanted in the mother, and the mice were then born without tyrosinemia type I. This work marks the first-step towards the possibility of treating diseases caused by defective genes prior to birth. Published in Nature Medicine.
  • Mouse offspring born to same sexed parents. Using either an egg (female) or sperm (male) and a genetically modified cell (a haploid embryonic stem cell) from either male or female mice, and an egg that had all of its genetic material removed (male only), researchers have been able to “generate” viable offspring from same sexed parents. Offspring produced from females survived and grew normally, while those produced from males died within a few days of being born. While there is still much to be worked out in terms of viability, including independent replication of this study, these results may someday lead to the development of novel techniques for same sexed couples to have children of their own. Published in Cell Stem Cell.
A female mouse, born to two mothers, tends to her own pups. Credit: Leyun Wang
  • New way of preventing acute asthmatic symptoms. Asthma is a common lung disease which affect 241 million people worldwide and is characterized by airflow limitation (the inability to breathe freely). New research in rats has demonstrated that carotid bodies may be responsible. During an asthma attack, lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) levels rise, and stimulate carotid bodies, which then cause airway constriction. By blocking the receptors on the carotid bodies which detect increases in LPA, asthma attacks were eliminated in a rat model. This research paves the way for treatment of acute asthma symptoms, once subsequent replication and safety and efficacy test are performed. Published in Nature Communications.
A compound found in the venom of the Australian funnel-web spider was found to kill off melanoma cells in the lab (Credit: pelooyen/Depositphotos)
  • A hybrid nanoplatform to detect cancers. Researchers have developed and validated a new method of detecting solid cancers, in mice, with much higher precision than before. They first created a nano-particle which maximizes the precision of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and fluorescence optical imaging (OI), due to its structure features. Once these nano-particles were synthesized and their toxicity determined, they were then injected into a mouse cancer model–excellent imaging results were obtained. Published in Applied Materials and Interfaces.

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