Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Working with narcoleptic Doberman Pinschers, researchers discovered that canine narcolepsy is inherited directly from the parents and is an autosomal recessive trait, meaning both parents must pass down the mutated gene for the offspring to develop the disorder. Although there is not yet a cure for human narcolepsy the Doberman Pinscher may provide an important clue to understanding why they both fell asleep…on and off the job.
Jet lag is caused by the body’s inability to adjust its circadian rhythm to a new time zone. Much of our understanding of jet lag has come from research on the degu, a small rodent that neither flies nor experiences jet lag. This remarkable rodent can reset its circadian rhythm very easily. Orally administered doses of the sleep hormone melatonin have aided the degu in readjusting its sleep schedule, which makes this a possible treatment for humans as well.
Every four in 10,000 people in the United States have dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the left ventricle of the heart to become enlarged. Turkey hearts can serve as a model for the human heart as it undergoes heart failure and cardiomyopathy because their hearts are very similar. By countering a mutated form of cardiac muscle protein with another form of mutated protein, a heart’s normal condition can be restored.
Malaria is caused by an organism that shifts its shape a lot, so a vaccine is very hard to develop. Malarial merozoite surface proteins, or MSPs, were identified as a viable vaccine for malaria. To mass-produce MSPs, scientists genetically engineered a herd of goats to produce MSPs in their milk. Last year, more goats that produced milk with vaccine were bred in Houston—their purpose is to produce an economic drinkable form of malaria vaccine for third world countries.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a form of dementia that results in memory loss and the decline in other cognitive functions. Scientists have recently discovered nanobodies in camels that can possibly serve as transporters to deliver medicine directly to the brains of patients suffering with Alzheimer's.
Although it is one of the most powerful painkillers in use, not even morphine can alleviate every pain. For these cases, there were few options other than letting the pain run its course. But now, a new option has arisen. A protein unique to king cobra venom that elicits neurological reactions in mice called ohanin is being used in a painkiller that is 20 times more potent than morphine, and has no observable side effects.