Powerful gene editing tool raises hopes, concerns | Animal studies set foundation for revolution in cancer treatment | Mouse studies shed light on benefits of working out
June 15, 2016
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Powerful gene editing tool raises hopes, concerns
Genetic material in a laboratory.
(Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)
Gene drive is a technique designed to change an animal's genome, readily pass those changes to offspring and potentially affect an entire species. Proponents of the technology say it can be harnessed to end diseases such as malaria and Zika virus by blocking mosquitoes from carrying the pathogens. Others say there could be unforeseen consequences, including promoting other diseases. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine weighed in last week, saying it's too soon for species modified with the technology to be released into nature.
National Public Radio (6/8) 
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Research Breakthroughs
Animal studies set foundation for revolution in cancer treatment
In the mid-1990s, immunologist and Lasker Award recipient Jim Allison found that altered T cells shrank and killed tumor cells in in mice. "I thought, 'If we could do that in people, this is going to be amazing,' " he recalls, but the work didn't make it into human cancer treatment until about a decade later. Sharon Belvin, diagnosed with malignant melanoma at age 22, was one of the early beneficiaries of immunotherapy after exhausting every approved medical treatment. She remains cancer-free to this day, and Allison's work laid the foundation for "a new modality for treating cancer," says Dr. Samuel Broder.
National Public Radio (6/9) 
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Mouse studies shed light on benefits of working out
Exercise
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A report in the journal eLife found that strenuous exercise influences gene expression in the brain of mice, boosting production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is believed to have a protective effect. In a separate study, older mice injected with the hormone osteocalcin ran as far as younger mice and outran untreated older mice twofold, and the team also found that physical activity naturally boosts osteocalcin. Researchers hope the findings, published in Cell Metabolism, could be harnessed to help improve muscle function in aging humans.
The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (6/15),  New Scientist (6/14) 
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Engineered virus provides better immune model for HIV vaccine research
University of Pennsylvania researchers have engineered a virus that better mimics the human response to HIV when it is used in animal testing. The researchers made the improvement by altering one amino acid to ensure their simian-human immunodeficiency virus behaves more like HIV when used in vaccine research, a potential "game-changer" for vaccine research, said researcher George M. Shaw. The study was published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.
PhillyVoice (Philadelphia) (6/12) 
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Strict diets may not be the only path to health
Produce
(Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images)
Mice fed a healthy diet on some days and a high-fat diet on others had similar body weight, liver fat values and insulin sensitivity to mice fed only a balanced diet, according to research by University of Georgia scientists published in Scientific Reports. The findings may shed light on how humans should be eating for health, the authors said, noting that following a strict diet is not sustainable for many people.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (free content) (6/10) 
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How cellphones might be messing with our sleep
UK researchers found that exposure to colored light before bed might affect the speed at which sleep comes, as well as stress hormone levels. They looked at mice, finding that those exposed to blue light took the longest to fall asleep, compared with other types of light, but in those lacking the pigment melanopsin, mice exposed to blue light fell asleep fastest. In addition, exposure to all types of colored light tested was linked to higher levels of corticosterone, the team reports in PLOS Biology, but mice lacking melanopsin had low levels of the hormone.
Cosmos Online (6/10) 
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Mouse species has menstrual cycle similar to that of humans
A mouse with a human-like menstrual cycle has been discovered and could one day be used to study topics related to women's reproductive health, according to a study in bioRxiv from Monash University in Australia. The spiny mouse, or Acomys cahirinus, has a nine-day cycle, with three days of bleeding, a ratio the researchers said was relatively close to that of humans.
Nature (free content) (6/10) 
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Other News
Animal Health
New cell therapies target diseases of old age in pets
Researchers are developing new cell therapies for treating cancer and other diseases that are increasingly common as pets live longer and are treated more like part of the family. Some of the therapies are already in use in human medicine or may become available to humans after they're validated in animals. The new therapies include bone-marrow transplants, cancer vaccines and therapeutic antibodies.
Nature (free content) (6/14) 
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