Researchers at the University of Utah tested many toxins in the omaria cone snail’s venom and found that Om1A is unique because it fits tightly into some receptors but not others. This desirable attribute is beneficial because if a drug can be developed to mimic the shape of the toxin, it will be less likely to bind with the wrong receptor and cause unwanted side effects. This slow but steady work will someday hopefully transform the omaria cone snail’s debilitating bite into medicine that gives mobility back to people with Parkinson’s disease.
Now that Siamese cats are available as genetic models for Niemann-Pick disease, in-depth studies on the biochemical properties of the disease are being performed. Previously, studies on Niemann-Pick disease were performed on rodents with drug-induced enzyme deficiencies, which was less than ideal. Although there are obstacles to be faced, researchers are optimistic that Siamese cats will speed the search for a cure or effective treatments for Niemann-Pick disease.
Using swordtail-platyfish hybrids, scientists found a proto-oncogene – a normal gene that causes cancer when turned on – that causes spontaneous melanoma formation in these fish. This gene, XMRK, resides on the sex chromosome and allows melanoma to be inherited. The importance of studying XMRK in swordtail-platyfish models is the universal commonalities among proto-oncogenes in different organisms, meaning a similar gene with similar inheritance patterns could very well be what causes melanoma in humans.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.