September was full of science reporting where animal research played a role. Here are our highlights.
Scientists uncover a link between car fumes and lung cancer that helps explain why so many non-smokers develop the disease
In laboratory studies mice that had been engineered to carry mutations in a gene called EGFR, linked to lung cancer, were far more likely to develop cancer when exposed to the PM2.5 pollutant particles from car fumes. They also revealed that the risk is mediated by an inflammatory protein, called interleukin-1 beta (IL1B), released as part of the body’s immune response to PM2.5 exposure. When the mice were given drugs to block this protein, they were less vulnerable to the pollutants.
The sex of the researcher can influence the results of mouse experiments
Laboratory mice tend to be more stressed when they can smell men, making them behave differently in experiments depending on whether they are handled by a man or a woman. This was first revealed some years ago but a recent study has emphasized how important it is to control the experimenter’s sex.
Todd Gould at the University of Maryland was trying to replicate the results of a previous “forced swim test” measuring the impact of the antidepressant ketamine and was failing. He wondered if it was something to do with the sex of the experimenters.
Gould and his colleagues designed a series of tests to explore whether the sex of the experimenter influenced how mice behaved.
“Mice were exposed to T-shirts worn by male and female experimenters, as well as cotton swabs rubbed across the experimenters’ wrists, elbows or behind the ears. They found that mice would avoid sniffing and engaging with scents from male experimenters and were either impartial or showed a slight preference for those linked to female experimenters.”
Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience
Bowhead whales can live for over 200 years – and now we might know why
The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop cancer. If you want a long life you need a system to protect you from cancer. In many long lived animals like elephants even low levels of DNA damage trigger programmed cell death, before the cells can become cancerous.
Bowhead whales have a different approach. Their cells divide more slowly than cells in other whales, giving the cells time to repair damage. This could be due to the duplication of a gene called CDKN2C.
In mice and human cells high levels of the protein this gene codes for halts cell division and prevents programmed cell death.
Animals can look pretty similar so in agriculture and labs animals are identified by methods such as ear tags, ear notching and micro-chipping. Face recognition has now been shown to work well for pigs.
“Not only does facial recognition prevent having to physically mark the animals, but it also offers the opportunity to cater to an individual’s specific nutritional or veterinary needs where animals are kept in large groups in intensive farming conditions.”
Last edited: 29 September 2022 09:02
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