Noise-Induced Hearing Loss is largely responsible for irreversible hearing damage. NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to a loud sound or continued exposure to high-decibel noises. Researchers at the University of Iowa are now turning to the common fruit fly to study and combat NIHL in humans. The fruit fly is the ideal animal model because the molecular structure of its ear is more similar to humans than that of rats or guinea pigs, meaning tests on fruit flies yield more accurate results.
Scientists found that people who have night blindness also have proteins that do not function properly, and fail to send electrical images from the rods to the brain. This connection between night blindness in horses and humans gives us the opportunity to further investigate the cause of CSNB and how we can treat it in both humans and animals.
The naked mole rat has a very long life span, with some living as long as 32 years, but what makes it unique is its apparent resistance to developing cancer. A team at the University of Rochester first described a process of tumor blockade called early contact inhibition that is present in the naked mole rat but not in any other mammalian species. This process might be part of this rat’s unique tumor busting superpower, effectively protecting it from the rapid cell growth and division that occurs with cancer.
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.