Science News

Antibiotic resistance rising among dolphins, study reveals

Antibiotic resistance is rising in dolphins, researchers have said, mirroring the trend seen in humans. Scientists examined disease-causing organisms, or pathogens, found in samples from the blowholes, gastric fluid and faeces of bottlenose dolphins from the Indian River Lagoon in Florida. Read more …(by The Guardian, Sep 15, 2019)

Six decades after big find, Melbourne scientist wins ‘America’s Nobel’

A veteran Melbourne-based researcher has won one of the science world’s top prizes for identifying the soldier-cells of the immune system.

Often referred to as “America’s Nobel”, the $US250,000 ($A364,000) Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award is the second-biggest award in biomedicine.

Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller, 88, who is based at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Parkville, was announced as a joint winner on Tuesday. Read more…(by the Sydney Morning Herald, Sep 10, 2019)

Mouse genetics influences the microbiome more than environment

Genetics has a greater impact on the microbiome than maternal birth environment, at least in mice, according to a study published this week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Vaginal birth, known to transfer microbiota to a newborn, failed to make a lasting microbial imprint on offspring. Read more…(by American Society for Microbiology, in PhysOrg, Jul 26, 2019)

Fudged research results erode people’s trust in experts

Reports of research misconduct have been prominent recently and probably reflect wider problems of relying on dated integrity protections.

The recent reports are from Retraction Watch, which is a blog that reports on the withdrawal of articles by academic journals. The site’s database reports that journals have withdrawn a total of 247 papers with an Australian author going back to the 1980s.

This compares with 324 papers withdrawn with Canadian authors, 582 from the UK and 24 from New Zealand. Australian retractions are 0.01% of all retractions reported on the site, a fraction of Australia’s 4% share of all research publications. Read more…(By Gavin Moodie, Adjunct professor, RMIT University, in THE CONVERSATION, Jul 25, 2019)

 Depression researchers rethink popular mouse swim tests

Nearly every scientist who has used mice or rats to study depression is familiar with the forced-swim test. The animal is dropped into a tank of water while researchers watch to see how long it tries to stay afloat. In theory, a depressed rodent will give up more quickly than a happy one — an assumption that has guided decades of research on antidepressants and genetic modifications intended to induce depression in lab mice.

But mental-health researchers have become increasingly sceptical in recent years about whether the forced-swim test is a good model for depression in people. It is not clear whether mice stop swimming because they are despondent or because they have learnt that a lab technician will scoop them out of the tank when they stop moving. Factors such as water temperature also seem to affect the results.

…Due in part to concerns about the forced-swim test’s accuracy, major drug companies such as Roche, Janssen and AbbVie have abandoned the procedure in recent years….

…one approach could include developing animal tests that accurately measure specific symptoms of depression, such as lack of interest in a favourite food….Read more…(By Sara Reardon , in Nature, Jul 18, 2019)

 Alternatives to Animal Testing

Despite their importance in these fields, there are now efforts to reduce the number of animals used in testing. That’s due, in part, to ethical concerns that are driving new legislation in different countries. But it also comes down to money and time.

“In theory, non-animal tests could be much cheaper and much faster,” said Warren Casey, the director of the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, which analyzes alternatives to animal use for chemical- safety testing.

Another concern is that in some types of research, animals are too different from humans to successfully predict the effects that certain products will have on our bodies. “So we’ve got ethics, efficiency and human relevance,” Casey told Live Science, the three main factors driving the hunt for alternatives.

So, what are the most promising options so far? (read more in LiveScience)

Scientists discover genetic mutation that helps block pain and improve healing

Jo Cameron smells her smouldering flesh before realising she has even been burnt and scoffs down chilli peppers with ease — and now doctors believe the 71-year-old could hold the key to new treatments for chronic injuries, after discovering she feels virtually no pain.

The former teacher has a rare genetic mutation that means she feels less pain, heals faster and experiences less anxiety than most people (read more in ABC)

Hospital disinfectants should be regulated like antibiotics new study suggests

Bacterial resistance to two disinfectants used in large amounts to control the spread of hospital infections is strongly associated with resistance to several antibiotics used to treat common infections, our latest study shows. (read more in The Conversation)

Man’s impact on flax evolution more limited than thought

Flax naturally adapted to new environments rather than by human influence due to a set of genes that enable it to change its architecture according to researchers from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick.  (read more in Phys.org).

CRISPR babies raise an uncomfortable reality – abiding by scientific standards doesn’t guarantee ethical research

“Uncertainty continues to swirl around scientist He Jiankui’s gene editing experiment in China. Using CRISPR technology, He modified a gene related to immune function in human embryos and transferred the embryos to their mother’s womb, producing twin girls.

Many questions about the ethical acceptability of the experiment have focused on ethical oversight and informed consent. These are important issues; compliance with established standards of practice is crucial for public trust in science.”  (read more in Philly Voice 26Dec2018)

Parrot Genomes Provide Insights Into Evolution Of Longevity And Cognition

“Analysis of the genome of an Amazon parrot and 26 other birds revealed that long-lived birds share a large number of similar mutations in genes associated with longevity, larger brains and advanced cognitive abilities — and parrots evolved new genes associated with learning speech” (read more in 2018 Forbes Media LLC)

CRISPR without the Chop Reverses Genetic Obesity in Mice

“Scientists at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have used a modified version of CRISPR technology to reverse genetic forms of severe obesity in two different mouse models, but without carrying out any genome editing. The technique, called CRISPR activation (CRISPRa), uses the CRISPR guidance system to target a particular gene sequence, but instead of using Cas enzymes as molecular scissors to cut out and repair or replace sequences, the technology amplifies existing gene activity to ramp up protein production.” (read more in GEN, 14 )

AN UNHEALTHY SKEPTICISM ABOUT ANIMAL GRIEF

A NEW VIEW OF EVOLUTION THAT CAN’T BE REPRESENTED BY A TREE

THE ORCA, HER DEAD CALF AND US

DARWIN COMES TO TOWN: HOW CITIES ARE CREATING NEW SPECIES

THIS IS THE MOST COMPLETE BRAIN MAP TO DATE

EARTH’S RESOURCES CONSUMED IN EVER GREATER DESTRUCTIVE VOLUMES

CROW VENDING MACHINE SKILLS ‘REDEFINE INTELLIGENCE’

THIS IS WHY YOUR BRAIN NEVER RUNS OUT OF PROBLEMS

A CENTURY ON, WHY ARE WE FORGETTING THE DEATHS OF 100 MILLION?

PLANTS ‘TALK TO’ EACH OTHER THROUGH THEIR ROOTS

NEW VIRUSES, SUPERBUGS FOUND IN STUDY OF NEW YORK HOUSE MICE

PLASTIC DIGESTING ENZYME FOUND

RESEARCHERS & WHO CLASH OVER GLOBAL THREAT OF DRUG RESISTANT MALARIA

HERE’S THE BEST SCIENCE ON HOW YOU CAN AVOID DEMENTIA

FORGET MEMORY LOSS, NEW ALZHEIMER’S DEFINITION PROPOSED

WOULD YOU WANT TO KNOW YOUR ALZHEIMER’S RISK?

TRANSGENIC MODELS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: LEARNING FROM ANIMALS

SCIENTISTS REAWAKEN MEMORY IN MICE…

‘RUST DEPOSITS’ IN THE BRAIN LINKED TO ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, RESEARCHERS SAY

ANTI-MICROBIAL RESISTANCE

NEW ESTIMATE SAYS 46 MILLION AMERICANS HEADED TO ALZHEIMER’S

PLAYING GOD: SHOULD WE REVIVE EXTINCT SPECIES?

TURMERIC-DERIVED COMPOUND CURCUMIN MAY TREAT ALZHEIMER’S

RESEARCHERS UNCOVER THE SOURCE OF DIABETIC PAIN

INTERRUPTED SLEEP MAY LEAD TO ALZHEIMER’S, NEW STUDIES SHOW

A FAILING SENSE OF SMELL – A CLUE TO DEMENTIA IN OLDER PEOPLE

FROG STUDY REVEALS EARLIEST KNOWN EXAMPLE OF BRAIN-BODY INTERFACE

OBITUARY – MARIAN DIAMOND

SCIENTISTS CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO

APHANTASIA