September 26th 2022


EARA News Digest 2022 - Week 39

Welcome to your Monday morning update, from EARA, on the latest news in biomedical science, policy and openness on animal research. 

Antibiotics for babies may have long-term effect on gut

Studies in mice have revealed that antibiotics prescribed for babies can have a serious effect on their gut function in adult life.

Scientists from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Baylor College of Medicine, Texas, USA, treated the mice with an oral antibiotic, called vancomycin, for the first ten days of their lives, to discover its long-lasting effects on gut health.

The researchers found that the antibiotics could have prolonged effects on the enteric nervous system, including the movement of food through the gut and diarrhoea-like symptoms in adulthood.

Melbourne researcher Dr Jaime Foong, as reported in the Physiological Society, said: “This provides further evidence of the importance of microbiota on gut health and could introduce new targets to advance antibiotic treatment to very young children."

The findings cannot yet be directly correlated to human children, but although the gut microbiota and nervous system of mice are less complicated than those of humans, they share many similarities.



NASA studies fruit flies in space

NASA has been using fruit flies to examine how the health of astronauts might be affected by flights to Mars and beyond.

Studies on the flies, at the International Space Station, have shown that artificial gravity may help protect humans against the effects of microgravity (sometimes called zero gravity).

According to NASA, scientists can learn more about a fly’s biology in a shorter amount of time, as the three weeks that they spend in space is roughly equivalent to three decades of human life.

The study reported that as the flies acclimatised to being back on Earth after their trip, the flies that experienced artificial gravity in space aged differently and had ‘less severe challenges’ to the flies that experienced microgravity.

The space agency said that fruit flies are the ‘ideal organism’ for this type of research because of the significant amount of overlap between the cellular and molecular processes of flies and humans.

Dr Siddhita Mhatre, a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, California, said: “It is imperative that we understand the impacts of altered gravity on the neurological function.” 

“And flies in space, alongside the astronauts, will help to further our efforts in keeping astronauts healthy.”

Fruit flies were the first living creatures intentionally sent into space when they were transported aboard a V2 rocket in February 1947.



Will air pollution study reveal how cancer develops?

UK scientists believe, after experiments in both humans and animals, that air pollution can cause cancer by ‘waking up’ old damaged cells.

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, London, discovered that breathing an air pollutant called PM2.5, can lead to the release of interleukin-1-beta in the lungs, which wakes up some cells that could potentially contain cancerous mutations.

Currently one in 10 lung cancer cases are caused by air pollution in the UK.

Doctors had previously tested an interleukin-1-beta drug in patients suffering from a cardiovascular disease and found, by complete accident, they cut the risk of lung cancer.

Prof Charles Swanton, of the Crick, told the BBC: “It rethinks our understanding of how tumours are initiated.” And he believed it would lead to a ‘new era’ of molecular cancer prevention.

The study was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology conference, which took place in Paris this month.7

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