Researchers at Columbia University used a modified virus to deliver light-sensitive proteins to cells in a mouse's brain, then used a laser to activate the cells and implant what they believe is something like an image or memory in the animal's brain. Columbia University researcher Rafael Yuste said the study shows that the brain is not hard-wired as scientists have believed but is flexible and malleable.
Studies have implicated brain inflammation in Alzheimer's disease severity, and mefenamic acid, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reverse memory problems akin to Alzheimer's in mice. The drug targets the NLRP3 inflammasome, an inflammatory pathway linked to damaged brain cells.
Scientists have turned on transcription factors in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, changing the cells into neurons using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, according to findings published in Cell Stem Cell. "We're flipping the epigenetic switch to convert cell types rather than driving them to do so synthetically," said Joshua Black, who co-authored the study.
Only two of the 10 proteins in the Zika virus are linked to fetal microcephaly, according to a study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. The researchers are studying the proteins, NS4A and NS4B, in mice and brain organoids as they work to lay the groundwork for treatments.
Studies in mice showed that viral loads associated with influenza and herpes were 10 times higher among animals infected in the morning than those infected in the evening, and disrupting the body's circadian rhythm increases vulnerability to infection, something that has implications for people with erratic work schedules. The effect might be due to BMAL1 gene activity, which peaks in the afternoon in mice and in people, and drops off in the winter.
Rats exposed to light 24 hours per day for six months had less muscle strength than those exposed to only 12 hours of light each day, and they had early symptoms of osteoporosis, more body fat, higher blood glucose levels and signs of worsening immune health, researchers reported in Current Biology. After two subsequent weeks of exposure to a 12-hour light-dark cycle, the test group rats' health returned to normal.
Because dogs and cats live alongside people and are affected by many of the same diseases as humans, researchers say pets are especially valuable clinical trial participants, and the results can benefit people and animals. Studies involving pet dogs and cats might yield more useful information than more traditional lab studies, but pets are not as easy to work with, and there is less funding available for the work.
A 24-dog trial at the University of Washington to test the safety of rapamycin showed the drug improved cardiac function without significant side effects. The results are part of an ongoing study of the drug in pets to determine whether it can prolong the life of dogs and possibly humans and mitigate some of the problems associated with aging.
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