NIH chimpanzee retirement could compromise public health | Biobank keeps chimp research program's legacy alive | Trial tests dogs' ability to detect cancer
 
November 25, 2015
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NIH chimpanzee retirement could compromise public health
The NIH announced its 50 remaining research chimpanzees, available for studies during a public health emergency, will join the rest of the country's research chimpanzees in retirement, but some experts worry the move is shortsighted in the face of emerging zoonotic disease threats. "Is that ultimately in the public health interest?" said FBR President Frankie Trull, noting that Ebola vaccine development for wild apes also would be hindered by the chimps' retirement. NIH Director Francis Collins said research on other non-human primate species is still essential. The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)/The Associated Press (11/19)
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Research Breakthroughs
Trial tests dogs' ability to detect cancer
Medical Detection Dogs in the UK is testing dogs' ability to detect markers of cancer in human urine samples. The study exposes dogs to one sample from a cancer patient and samples from seven controls, including one from a matched-age patient who had signs of cancer but no malignancy. Dr. Sheryl Gabram of Emory University said translating dogs' ability to detect cancer to clinical use is difficult, but she sees the area of research as "promising." CNN (11/20)
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Scientists engineer mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria
A mosquito genetically modified to resist the parasite that causes malaria has been developed by scientists in the US, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers used CRISPR to edit the mosquito's DNA to become malaria-resistant, then determined that the resistance was present in subsequent generations. Researchers hope that one day they can put the genetically altered mosquito into the world and stop the insects from spreading malaria to the human population. BBC (11/24)
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Lab-engineered larynx looks and sounds like the real thing
Functional vocal cord tissue has been successfully grown by University of Wisconsin researchers, according to a report in Science Translational Medicine. The team grew vocal cord tissue using a growth scaffold and tissue from four patients and one cadaver. Using larynges from canine cadavers, the team confirmed the engineered vocal cords could make sound and vibrated like the real thing when air was passed through them. Studies in mice showed the tissue is unlikely to be rejected by the human immune system, and the work lays the foundation for treatment of human vocal disorders. Gizmag (11/23)
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Bone protein stimulates cells to produce insulin
Diabetes Research Institute scientists discovered that the bone protein BMP-7 stimulates insulin production and secretion in pancreatic cells that don't normally perform that function. When the cells treated with the bone protein were transplanted into diabetic mice, the new cells acted like pancreatic beta cells. The team is working to determine whether directly injecting BMP-7 into the pancreas will have the same effect. New Scientist (11/24)
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Blue light-gene therapy combo could make pacemakers obsolete
Cardiologist and physiologist Lior Gepstein of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology used light and algae DNA to make a rat's heart beat. Optogenetics, already in use in neurology, controls cells using light, and Gepstein's application could make existing pacemakers obsolete. Gepstein's team added algal DNA to a rat's heart muscles so the cells produced a light-responsive protein. When stimulated by a light pulse, the cells caused a heart contraction that followed the normal electrical pathway, causing the entire muscle to contract. The Daily Beast (11/21)
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New compound shows promise for improving quality of life of Parkinson's patients
Studies in mice and monkey models suggest a novel compound known as M4 muscarinic receptor positive allosteric modulator may reduce the uncontrolled movements associated with levodopa, a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease. The compound interacts with a brain cell receptor that plays a role in side effects from the drug, and it shows promise for mitigating a serious lifestyle issue for patients. DoctorsLounge.com/HealthDay News (11/19)
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Animal Health
Scientists slowly turn attention to zoonotic Chagas disease
A canine illness in a military dog and subsequent work by public health veterinarian Thomas Cropper helped put Chagas disease on the public's radar and made it a reportable infectious disease in Texas, but to the people of Latin America, it's nothing new. Chasing down leads in a 2008 case, Dr. Cropper and colleagues found 8% of Lackland Air Force Base working dogs carried antibodies to Trypanosoma cruzi, and close to 30% of the kissing bug vectors they tested had fed on and potentially infected humans. The disease was discovered in 1909, and although it can cause serious and fatal heart trouble, it has not been a research priority. The New Yorker (tiered subscription model) (11/20)
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FBR News
FBR nominated for 11th Emmy
FBR was nominated this week for our 11th Emmy Award for the TV episode we produced on Alzheimer's disease research, featuring legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt. Watch the episode.
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