Scientists track brain activity as amputee monkeys control robotic arm | Mouse study links antibiotic-responsive bacterium to colon cancer | Dopamine production might be part of what sets humans apart from other species
November 29, 2017
FBR Smartbrief
Top Story
Scientists track brain activity as amputee monkeys control robotic arm
Scientists implanted electrodes in the motor cortices of three rhesus monkeys that had undergone lifesaving amputation of an injured arm and tracked brain activity as the monkeys learned to control a robotic arm using only their thoughts. The scientists will integrate their findings, published in Nature Communications, with other research to provide sensory feedback about spatial perception and touch to neuroprosthetic limbs.
The Engineer (U.K.) (11/28),  Futurity (11/27) 
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Research Breakthroughs
Mouse study links antibiotic-responsive bacterium to colon cancer
Fusobacterium nucleatum was detected in up to half of human colon tumors tested, and the bacterium was also found in colon cancer cells that had metastasized to the liver, but metronidazole slowed the growth of the tumors in mice, according to a study published in Science. F. nucleatum was not found in cancers that arose first in the liver or in cancers that were free of the bacterium upon origination in the colon, and erythromycin, to which F. nucleatum is resistant, had no effect on tumor growth.
The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (11/23) 
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Dopamine production might be part of what sets humans apart from other species
Researchers who analyzed the brains of several humans, chimps and macaques reported in Science that genes that produce tyrosine hydroxylase and DOPA decarboxylase are up-regulated in the human neocortex and striatum to a far greater extent than in the nonhuman primates' brains. Both enzymes are involved in producing dopamine, which has an integral role in reasoning, memory and general intelligence, and the findings might also inform research on brain disorders such as autism.
Newsweek (11/24),  National Public Radio (11/23) 
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Understanding swallows' genetic variation could inform human drug development
Understanding swallows' genetic variation could inform human drug development
(Thomas Samson/Getty Images)
Male tree swallows' immune system strength is reflected in their appearance, with the brightest swallows more able to resist parasites and pathogens, and female tree swallows actively pursue several mates at once, giving preference to the best-looking males. Immunity genes are also crucial for warding off disease in humans, and studying birds' genetic variations could aid drug development, says biologist Peter Dunn, who is studying the swallows.
Wisconsin State Farmer online/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (11/26) 
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Exercise improves health of mice exposed to cigarette smoke
Smokers who exercise regularly might mitigate some of the damaging effects of smoking, such as inflammation and muscle loss, research in mice suggests. The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology -- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, demonstrated that inflammation markers in blood and muscle samples of mice exposed long term to smoke improved significantly after the mice began running on a treadmill.
Medical Xpress (11/29) 
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Scientists create robotic device for failing hearts
Scientists create robotic device for failing hearts
(Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)
A robotic device was developed by researchers from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University to help a failing heart pump blood by supporting the defective side of the organ, compressing the ventricle using soft actuators and holding the septum in place using a brace. The scientists successfully tested the device on pigs, with findings published in Science Robotics, and now they are working on reducing the device's size and improving its portability as they explore use in humans.
New Atlas (11/23) 
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Animal Health
High serum leptin levels might signal gallstones in dogs
High serum leptin concentrations and hyperlipidemia are associated with canine cholelithiasis and might affect the pathogenesis of gallstones, researchers reported in PLOS ONE. The researchers suspect that upregulated expression of leptin and its receptor might be the body's attempt to restore gallbladder homeostasis.
American Veterinarian (11/28) 
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Study of equine bacterium might lead to vaccine for strep throat
Study of equine bacterium might lead to vaccine for strep throat
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The UK's Animal Health Trust sponsored researchers who developed a method for simultaneously testing all the genes in Streptococcus equi, a close relative of Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes throat infections. Researchers at Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas used the method to identify six genes in S. pyogenes that allow the bacterium to survive in human saliva and become invasive, and the findings might lead to new vaccines or treatments for people and horses, researcher James Musser said.
HealthDay News (11/27) 
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