Friday Science Review: July 31, 2009
July 31, 2009
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My first post… a two week round-up.
New direction for treating obesity: A study headed by Dr. Hans-Michael Dosch’s group at The Hostpital for Sick Children in Toronto demonstrated that killer T cells in visceral fat are activated to destroy fat cells and control insulin resistance. With increasing weight gain, however, the killer T cells become overwhelmed as fat cells grow and inflammatory T cells move in. Although these studies were performed in mice, it appears that humans also have a similar system in place. The good news is that treatment with an anti-CD3 drug can give the immune system a boost and help reduce inflammatory T cells. Even better news is that this drug is already in clinical use to protect against organ rejection, which means clinical trials to combat obesity may start as early as next year. The article was published on-line this week in Nature Medicine.
Cool headed Toucan. After decades of speculation over the purpose of the toucan’s over-sized beak – from sexual ornament to feeding purposes – researchers at Brock University in Ontario, in collaboration with scientists in Brazil, published an article in Science showing that the toucan’s beak acts as a highly efficient cooling unit. They have the greatest beak-to-body size ratio and use this large surface area as a heat exchanger (akin to elephants’ ears) to regulate body temperature by modifying blood flow. If only we had a ‘heat wave’ problem this summer…
Setback in Huntington’s Disease research. A decade long study concluding with disappointing results was reported in PNAS this week. Researchers at Laval University and University of South Florida analyzed the brains of HD patients who had undergone neural transplantations about ten years ago as a potential treatment. Although there were mild clinical benefits, the grafts were short-lived and also had undergone disease-like degeneration.
Barcoding Nemo. As part of the International Barcode of Life Project to identify all plants and animals based on signature DNA sequences, spear-headed by Paul Herbert at the University of Guelph, the ornamental fish was added to the list. Accurate identification of ornamental fish is important for establishing regulations, conservation practices and tracking origins. The DNA barcode reference for these fish is based on the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene where 98% of the fish have distinct barcode clusters. The article was published in PLoS One last week.
Funny etiology: two curious New York high schoolers initiated the project and recruited the Guelph lab, sparking headlines last summer when they discovered that some sushi restaurants were mislabeling cheaper fish as more expensive types.
Other DNA barcoding projects include other fish, butterflies, and birds. To find out more, visit the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding or the International Barcode of Life Project (iBOL).