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.
- Dietary sugar may prevent beneficial bacteria growth. Researchers have found that both fructose and glucose, which together form sucrose, block the production of a key protein called Roc. This protein is required for colonization of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in the gut–and the ability to process healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. When they engineered a strain of this bacterium that did not silence Roc in response to fructose and glucose–the strain had a colonization advantage in the guts of mice on a high sucrose/glucose diet. Lead researcher, Professor Groisman said, “The role of diet in the gut microbiota goes farther than just providing nutrients. It appears that carbohydrates like sugar can act as signaling molecules as well.” Published in PNAS.
- E-bandage generates electricity and speeds wound healing in rats. Skin has a remarkable ability to heal itself. But in some cases, wounds heal very slowly or not at all, putting a person at risk for chronic pain, infection and scarring. Now, researchers have developed a self-powered bandage that generates an electric field over an injury, dramatically reducing the healing time for skin wounds in rats. To power their electric bandage (e-bandage), the researchers made a wearable nanogenerator which converted skin movements, which occur during normal activity or even breathing, into small electrical pulses. This current flowed to two working electrodes that were placed on either side of the skin wound to produce a weak electric field. The team tested the device by placing it over wounds on rats’. Wounds covered by e-bandages closed within 3 days, compared with 12 days for a control bandage with no electric field. Published in ACS Nano.
- Contact with wild monkeys and apes may put humans at risk for zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases–those which originate in other animal species before spilling over to humans–now constitute more than 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases. Of these, 70% come from contact with wild animals. This week, new survey data collected over a year, in Cameroon, indicates that frequent physical contact with primates may increase exposure risk to diseases. In particular, exposure risk in any given village was directly related to the relative density of nonhuman primates and their proximity to human settlements. While these results are perhaps unsurprising, they highlight the relevance of surveillance in at risk areas, as well as the need for advocacy which promote safe meat handling practices. Published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
- 300 blind mice uncover possible genetic causes of eye disease. Hundreds of new genes linked to blindness and other vision disorders have been identified in a screen of mouse strains. Many of these genes are likely important in human eye vision and the results could help identify new causes of hereditary blindness in patients. The results are the latest to come from the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium, where one goal is to identify a function for every gene in the mouse genome, by creating lines of “knockout” mice that lack a single specific gene and screening them for their effects. Published in Nature Communications Biology.
- Plant modified with rabbit DNA cleans air pollution. Researchers have inserted a rabbit gene into common houseplants, giving them the power to filter toxic pollution from the air. Homes often accumulate small pollutants known as volatile organic compounds. To remove these pollutants, a team of scientists harnessed the power of genetic engineering and the ability of mammals to eradicate harmful substances using a naturally occurring protein, E21. Each cell of the resulting plants was therefore turned into a miniature factory for 2E1, or a “green liver”. To test how well their plants performed as living air filters, they placed them in glass tubes filled with potentially harmful household pollutants.They found that within just six days chloroform was virtually undetectable, while benzene levels had dropped by three-quarters after eight.