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.
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.
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.
Cancers involve out-of-control cell growth. Scientists believe that the zebrafish may hold the key to gaining a better understanding of how cancer moves and changes, which could provide insight into how to create better treatments. Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have developed a transparent mutant zebrafish commonly known as the "Casper" zebrafish that allows scientists to watch cancers develop in adult fish.
Basset Hounds may replace the Arabian horse model for SCID research in children. The main reason is that the Hounds have the gene defect that’s most commonly involved with SCID in children. Simply put, the defect matches up, and this is important when considering potential animal models. Besides the fact that Hounds are genetically similar to children in terms of the gene that expresses SCID, they also cost less to feed, have shorter gestation periods, and produce more offspring per year than Arabian horses.