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What Cows Can Teach Us About Autism

A team at Yale University analyzed the effects of a new oxytocin nasal spray on social functioning of autistic children. They reported that the medication facilitated social functioning. Other experiments using animal models have shown that the medication promotes social behavior and bonding. With a little help from a few run-of-the-mill dairy cows, the role of oxytocin in social behaviors and anxiety is now paving the way towards new treatments for autism.

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Lost: How Bats are Helping People Find Their Way Home

Patients with Developmental Topographic Disorientation wake up every day only to face a strange, seemingly new world. Tasks that many of us do without even thinking are constant battles. In order to update the model for spatial navigation, scientists are beginning to study the brains of bats which are best known for their ability to navigate using a series of sound waves, also known as echolocation. These new studies using bats shine a ray of hope for those with this condition.

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Dogs Really Are Man’s Best Friend: Osteosarcoma Research in Great Danes

Great Danes are one of the best canine models for human cancer research because they have the highest chance of developing a malignancy in their lifetime. Compared to lab rats and mice, Great Danes are better models for human disease because they are genetically more similar. All too often, treatments that have worked in lab mice haven't worked when we've taken them to human clinical trials. [The canine] model is much closer to human disease.

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Hope is Hopping Toward Us: Fox Squirrels and the Answer to Gunther’s Disease

Fox squirrels are a relatively new animal model in finding a cure for Gunther’s disease. Already, findings have led to experimental bone marrow transplants which were successful in a few cases. Additionally, blood transfusions to suppress heme production as well as spleen removal have helped some patients. Realistically, a cure for Gunther’s disease is still many years off. For now, patients can hope that the fox squirrel will soon share its secret for beating the symptoms of Gunther’s disease.

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“Fishing” for Clues to the Cause of CHD

The zebrafish model is crucial to gene discovery, allowing scientists to uncover important clues about the function of candidate genes. Because they reproduce rapidly and have very high reproduction rates, researchers have access to multiple generations and a large number of fish. Additionally, exceptional tools exist for genetic manipulation of zebrafish, making them ideal for developing gene therapies and holds much hope for future CHD research.

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Happy Ending to a Grizzly Tale

Researchers at Washington State University are studying grizzly bears raised in captivity to figure out how the bears’ hearts undergo such dramatic and helpful changes during hibernation. Understanding how the physical and chemical changes occur that allow grizzly bears to avoid blood clots and ruptured arteries could lead to breakthroughs in long awaited treatment for human heart disease.

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Chickens Tackle Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

For many years, the actual cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was highly disputed. There is strong evidence to support the theory that individuals who develop HT are often genetically predisposed to it. When obese and regular chickens were bred, several offspring inherited spontaneous autoimmune thyroiditis- leading to the conclusion that specific thyroid genes combined with specific immune regulatory genes are responsible for susceptibility to HT.

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Counting on Sheep to Save Children with Tay-Sachs

Tay-Sachs disease is a genetic disorder caused by the absence of the vital protein Hexosaminidase A isoenzyme. Hex-A breaks down fatty substances called GM2 gangliosides. However, infants with Tay-Sachs possess a gene mutation that makes them unable to produce Hex-A. As a result, fatty substances, or lipids, quickly accumulate inside neurons causing severe nerve damage. The rapid deterioration of the nervous system poses a challenge to researchers, however the answer could lie with an animal that has been around since biblical times- the Jacob sheep.

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Doberman Pinschers Asleep on the Job: Uncovering the Mysteries of Narcolepsy

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.

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The Furry Clue to Treating Jet Lag: How the Degu is Helping Treat an Air Traveler’s Worst Nightmare

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.

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