Scientists have created the first-ever human–pig chimeric embryos, with a long-term goal of eventually devising a strategy to produce spare organs for transplantation into people. “The interspecies differences . . . are not insignificant hurdles to overcome to try and develop this technology further to make a whole human organ,” Stephen Strom of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who was not involved in the work told The Scientist.
Nearer term, the embryos could be useful models for developmental biology, drug development, and more, noted the authors, whose findings were published in Cell last week (January 26).
Meanwhile, in Nature, researchers described their transplantation of mouse-rat chimeric pancreata into mice meant to model diabetes last week (January 25). The organs were functional, the team reported, regulating the rodents’ blood-glucose levels for more than a year.
While marijuana has been legalized for medical use in several U.S. states and on the federal level in Canada, researchers in both countries still struggle to obtain funding and specimens for studies on cannabis. And the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future, Michael Bostwick at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told The Scientist. “I don’t have any reason to believe our new president . . . is going to be easy on marijuana or that there’s going to be a whole lot of either wisdom or priority about declaring it something that needs to be studied,” he said.
By tinkering with the processes through which immunizations are made, researchers are working to develop vaccines that need not be held under constant temperature control. Chris Fox of the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle and colleagues have so far made progress toward a thermostable, freeze-dried tuberculosis vaccine.
“We’re a couple of years in and have been able to demonstrate you can maintain the vaccine at room temperature or higher, 37 degrees Celsius or even 50 degrees Celsius, for several months and maintain the stability of the vaccine,” Fox told The Scientist. “So we’re now moving that into manufacturing and clinical testing.”
A unique lineage of broadly neutralizing antibodies could inspire the design of vaccines that target several strains of HIV, researchers reported in Science Immunology last week (January 27).
Although this study is an advance toward designing a broadly neutralizing vaccine, Michael said, it’s just the first “base camp” on the way up the vaccine equivalent of Mount Everest. “Getting to the second base camp would be breaking [immune] tolerance,” he told The Scientist. To achieve that, he said, “you’re looking at probably a 10-year series of experiments.”
Genes linked to embryonic development, stress, and cancer are among those increasingly transcribed after zebrafish and mice die, according to a study published in Open Biology last week (January 25). “We define the window between the time of organismal death and the time when not all cells are dead as ‘the twilight of death,’” coauthor Peter Noble at the University of Washington told The Scientist. “We found that there was a successional pattern to this time—more or less waves of transcription abundances. The shutdown is not random, it’s step-wise.”
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