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Mother Nature Knows Best

Having high levels of cortisol in your blood for long periods of time can lead to chronic stress which has many negative health effects. Surprisingly, having high levels of cortisol is not always bad, especially if you are a North American red squirrel. Scientists are studying the impact of population density on survival found that pregnant red squirrels in a more crowded forest had higher cortisol levels and produced babies that grew faster.

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Zebrafish Swim into Labs of MS Researchers

MS researchers genetically screen zebrafish to uncover neuron receptors and have successfully found a receptor that can instruct certain cells to remake myelin. Since zebrafish are about 70% similar to humans in their protein-coding genes, scientists look for genes in the zebrafish genome that control the rebuilding of the myelin sheath and are optimistic about finding a cure to MS.

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Powerful Spit from Gila Monsters Controls Diabetes

In the early 90s, an endocrinologist and research scientist named John Eng discovered a hormone in the Gila monster’s saliva similar to one in the human digestive tract that keeps blood sugar levels from spiking or dropping too low. He named the hormone exendin-4 and began exploring its tremendous potential as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Exendin-4 is improving the lives of people with type 2 diabetes and has great potential for treating devastating neurological disorders.

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“Flying” Toward A Cure For Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation on the X-chromosome that is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. Clues to this syndrome, which manifests in a wide spectrum of behavioral and learning problems, may be buzzing overhead. The common fruit fly has genes similar to those responsible for causing FXS in humans, making this household pest the perfect partner for scientists searching for a cure for a disease that is also linked to autism.

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Terriers Give Insight into Glaucoma

Researchers using data from terriers have found an area on the canine chromosome 8 that is associated with glaucoma. This same chromosome has been associated with glaucoma in humans, providing hope that when the exact gene and mutation are identified in the terriers, they will match a similar gene and mutation in humans. Such a discovery would open the door to more effective therapies so that dogs and people could keep their precious sense of sight intact.

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Naked Mole Rats Can Help Stroke Victims

The naked mole rat, a blind, nearly hairless rodent about the size of a mouse that lives underground, might provide the secret to reducing brain damage caused during a stroke. Thanks to these rodents, scientists know a lot more about how neurons survive in low-oxygen conditions. Armed with this new knowledge, they are working to find a way to prevent or minimize the impact of stroke, not only on seniors but also the 34% of people hospitalized for stroke who are under the age of 65.

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Gator-aid: Alligators Gnawing on the Mystery of Tooth Regeneration

Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC are studying the alligator for clues how to regenerate teeth in humans. The tooth structure of alligators is surprisingly similar to that of humans, except that an alligator has eighty teeth, each of which can be regenerated up to fifty times in a single day. The frequency at which American alligators can regenerate teeth is due to the activation of dormant stem cells which trigger the growth of a new tooth when the alligator loses one.

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