Research Roundup: Using CRISPR to boost lifespan, human trial using induced pluripotent stem cells to treat spinal cord injury approved 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.

  • Using CRISPR to boost lifespan in mice. Scientists at the Salk institute have developed a new therapy using CRISPR/Cas9 to increase the length of life for humans suffering from progeria; a very rare genetic condition affecting 1 in 4 million babies worldwide with a life expectancy of 13 years. Progeria is caused by a mutation in the LMNA gene, using CRISPR they effectively corrected the mutation causing the genetically engineered mice to live longer and develop more like a healthy mouse. This research could one day help patients with progeria and may also help us better understand aging as mouse models with progeria are often used to understand the mechanisms underlying aging. Published in Nature Medicine
  • Japan approves first human trial of human induced pluripotent stem cells to treat spinal cord injury. According to a report published in the Japan Times the Health Ministry has given the green light to a clinical trial for the world’s first clinical test of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to treat people who lost mobility and sensation due to spinal cord injury. This trial, to be conducted by researchers from Keyo University, builds upon previous research conducted in animal models including mice and monkeys, which have recovered mobility following similar injuries. The initial trial will be aimed at testing the safety of the neural cells created by injections of iPS cells in the spinal cord, and their potential at restoring function in a small number of patients, focusing on young, healthy people who suffered spinal cord damage due to traffic or sports accidents. According to the leader of the research team, Prof. Hideyuki Okano, “It’s been 20 years since I started researching cell treatment. Finally we can start a clinical trial”.
  • A native California plant for treating Alzheimer’s? The Yerba santa plant has used to treat respiratory ailments, headaches, fever, sore muscles, wounds, and rheumatism since the native tribes discovered its medicinal properties. Now, scientists from the Salk Institute have identified the compound; Sterubin, as it’s most active chemical compound and discovered that this compound has anti-inflammatory effects on brain cells. This current work was performed on mouse nerve cells, and now the scientists will further test Sterubin on a mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease. Published in Redox Biology.
Yerba Santa, Source: USDA Forest Service
  • Activating tooth regeneration in mice. Scientists at Kings College London have used mammalian diversity in tooth generation to pinpoint the necessary signalling pathway to generate a set of replacement teeth for mice. Normally mice only have one set of teeth, and no replacement. Minipigs, however, have two sets of teeth, similar to humans. By comparing gene expression throughout tooth growth in mice and minipigs, scientists identified the signalling pathway for tooth regeneration. They also identified that the arrival of the second set of teeth seems to inhibit a third set of teeth from generating. These findings provide a conceptual advancement in the field of tooth replacement. Published in Development.
  • Young bone marrow rejuvenates aging brains. A new study has found that transplanting the bone marrow of young laboratory mice into old mice prevented cognitive decline in the old mice, preserving their memory and learning abilities. The findings support an emerging model that attributes cognitive decline, in part, to aging of blood cells, which are produced in bone marrow. “While prior studies have shown that introducing blood from young mice can reverse cognitive decline in old mice, it is not well understood how this happens,” said Helen Goodridge, PhD, co-senior author of the study. “Our research suggests one answer lies in specific properties of youthful blood cells.” Published in Communications Biology.