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Week 4: Butterfly migration concerns, new jobs for CRISPR, and an all women’s veterinary surgical team pushes boundaries

Posted on February 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

Scientists Attempt to Move Winter Migration Grounds for Butterflies

Eastern Monarch butterfly populations have been declining over the past 20 years in North America, dropping up to 80%. In an attempt to help alleviate this pressing issue, researchers are attempting to move a forest of oyamel firs- the migration destination for these butterflies in Mexico- up the mountain to combat the effects of rising temperatures.

This move is not without controversy.

‘Assisted migration’ has been debated in the industry, with some ecologists stating the elevated risk of wiping out native populations as non-native species are introduced as the primary reason for opposition.

Both the Eastern and Western Monarch butterflies are up for consideration to be covered under the Endangered Species Act this June. This is due to a combination of rising temperatures shrinking the oyamel fir region and freezing temperatures impacting the butterflies’ wintering grounds. Numbers have been rapidly declining over the years and are expected to continue into the future.

Results of the transfer has been mixed, but the team working on the project is hopeful of the outcome, stating the reward is worth the risk. Nature covers the full story here.

US-based University Tries Out New Application for CRISPR

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are exploring the use of CRISPR in editing genes in pathogens that code their response to antibiotics. The goal of this project is to help combat antibiotic resistance.

This new method, known as Mobile-CRISPRi, works by binding to certain genes and blocking other proteins from binding and activating transcription. This new CRISPR derivative cannot cut DNA due to an inactivated Cas9 protein and is mobile due to conjugation. This allows movement between bacteria by linking up with each other and exchanging DNA.

The goal is to introduce this new concept to bacteria that commonly caused antibiotic resistant infections like, pseudomonas, staphylococcus, and salmonella.

Researchers are hoping this will give them a better idea of how antibiotics impact bacteria and improve their efficacy.

Read more on Nature’s coverage here.

Research Shows Sleep Deprivation Has Impact on Tau Levels Within the Brain

GEN reports on new research coming out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers studied tau levels within the brain during a normal wake-sleep cycle and compared their findings to tau levels in subjects who were forced to stay awake during their normal sleep cycle.

Tau is normally present when we are awake and produced during normal brain function. When we sleep, tau is supposed to be cleared from the brain, lowering their levels. When that cycle is disturbed or abnormal wakefulness occurs, tau levels remain elevated. If this occurs, tau can form clumps or tangles which research has shown contributes to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.

By utilizing both mouse and human models, interstitial fluid (ISF) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples were obtained and tau levels were analyzed. Results showed that mice who had their sleep cycles disrupted, increasing their time awake, increased their tau levels and prevented the brain from clearing it naturally. This could lead to the formation of tau tangles over time. In patients with Alzheimer’s, tau tangles normally occur in areas responsible for memory, such as the hippocampus.

To understand whether sleep impacted the potential spread of tau tangles, researchers injected tau tangles in mice and disrupted their sleep again. Results showed that tau tangles spread to the hippocampus and other areas associated with Alzheimer’s.

While researchers say that cannot adequately determine whether adequate sleep can prevent against the development of Alzheimer’s, they do say it can help preserve brain health.

Washington State University Veterinarians Push the Envelope with Pituitary Surgery

A team of women veterinarians are taking great strides forward in the surgical treatment of pituitary tumors in cats and dogs. Annie Chen-Allen, DVM, MS, DACVIM; Linda Martin, DVM, MS, DACVECC; and Tina Owen, DVM, DACVS, compose the team that is tackling hyperadrenocorticism.  Dr. Owen is a pituitary surgeon, Dr. Chen-Allen a neurologist, and Dr. Martin a criticalist, comprising one of the few teams performing these surgeries in the US.

Hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s Disease, gets diagnosed in over 100,000 dogs per year, with around 85% of the cases resulting from pituitary tumors.

The standard treatment for pituitary tumors in humans is surgery in the US and around the world, as well as animals in certain parts of Europe. However, the standard treatment for cats and dogs in the US is medication and radiation.

The team from Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital is performing transsphenoidal hypoohysectomy procedures on around one patient per month.

American Veterinarian did a Q&A with the innovative team, which can be found here.

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