How pets are helping advance cancer care | Many applications for gene editing in biomedical labs | Robot shows promise for safer surgeries
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May 11, 2016
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How pets are helping advance cancer care
Cat Brings Therapy And Delight To The Elderly
(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Pet owners in the US and Canada are part of research involving experimental cancer therapies that could one day also help humans with cancer. In one study, scientists are using the transplant-rejection drug rapamycin in an effort to prevent recurrence of osteosarcoma, a disease that commonly strikes dogs but also affects people, usually children, teens or young adults. Another trial involves a two-vaccine immunotherapy protocol aimed at reducing tumor size and helping the immune system target cancer cells that are metastasizing in dogs with osteosarcoma, and a similar protocol is being tested for feline mammary cancer.
The Telegram (St. John's, Newfoundland) (5/10) 
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Research Breakthroughs
Many applications for gene editing in biomedical labs
The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool has made manipulating the genome far easier, and animal researchers are applying the technology in many ways in an effort to fight devastating diseases, stabilize crops and tackle other challenges humans face. Researchers have treated muscular dystrophy in mice, are modifying fruit fly neurons to study neurodegenerative diseases, and plan to develop pigs with diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions to allow researchers to test treatments for humans. As some scientists have broached the idea of human germline editing, ethical concerns have arisen that experts say must be addressed before modification of human embryos progresses.
Daily Citizen (Beaver Dam, Wis.) (5/8) 
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Robot shows promise for safer surgeries
Surgical instruments
(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Autonomous robotic surgery may help improve patient outcomes and efficiency while reducing errors, according to a study in Science Translational Medicine that tested the tools on pig tissues and organs, finding comparable outcomes to surgery performed by a human. While robotic systems are steadily becoming more popular in the US, surgeons are still required to operate them manually. The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, however, integrates a robotic arm, suturing device and imaging capabilities and is programmed to follow best surgical practices.
Reuters (5/10) 
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Researchers use new RNA-targeting approach to kill cancer cells
A new technique allows scientists to target microRNA expressed in cancerous cells, prompting cellular death while sparing healthy tissue. The technique worked in rat models of triple-negative breast cancer, the most difficult form to treat. The technique, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could be applied to numerous cancers and even viruses such as Zika and Ebola, according to the study authors.
ConsumerAffairs.com (5/10) 
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Research zeroes in on critical glioblastoma gene
Scientist Arezu Jahani-Asl of McGill University discovered a key gene in development of glioblastoma by removing it in mice. She repeated the work and continued to find mice with the deletion did not have any sign of the deadly brain cancer. Looking at human tumor tissue, the team found higher levels of the protein encoded by the gene corresponded to worse patient outcomes, a result that was also seen in mice. The cancer is relatively common and deadly, striking people in the prime of life, and scientists and patients expressed hope that the findings will pave the way for new treatments.
Montreal Gazette (Quebec) (tiered subscription model) (5/6) 
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Experimental gel restores blood flow to limbs in mice with vascular disease
An injectable gel encouraged the growth of new blood vessels and restored blood flow to the limbs of diabetic mice with severe vascular disease, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found. The gel contains growth factors and syndecan-4, a protein found in blood vessel cells that may play a role in cellular signaling. The Defense Department recently awarded the researchers a three-year, $2.7 million grant for preclinical testing of the gel.
MIT Technology Review online (free registration) (5/10) 
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Other News
Animal Health
Ill. veterinarians report hundreds of canine influenza cases
Dogs at play.
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bloomington, Ill., area veterinarians say they've treated hundreds of dogs for suspected or known canine influenza in recent days. Veterinarians Kirsten Pieper and David Bortell say they have not heard of any fatal cases in the area, and they note illness usually resolves with supportive care, but it can progress to pneumonia in young, old or immunocompromised animals. The illness, which spreads readily, surfaced in the area two weeks ago, and the number of cases increased rapidly over the weekend, the veterinarians said.
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) (5/11) 
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Researchers study bears by analyzing what they leave behind
New research looking at the molecular composition in cherry pits from Asiatic black bear droppings sheds light on the ecology of the species and how the plants they eat are responding to climate shifts. It's one of numerous ways in which researchers use fecal matter from animals in captivity and in nature to learn about the creatures and their environment. Fecal analysis has yielded information on individual animals' genetics, sex, hormone levels, diet and parasite load, but it also holds information about species population size, connections between species and more.
SmithsonianMag.com (5/4) 
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