Dr. Gary Michelson is a retired Los Angeles surgeon who made a lot of money ($1.35B) from a spinal surgical invention in 2005. Since then he's devoted himself and his considerable resources to philanthropy. One of his most passionate causes is reducing the rate of euthanasia for unwanted pets by promoting spaying and neutering, along with shelter adoption, training, and good vet care through the Los Angeles group Found Animals. Not content with the usual invasive practice of sterilizing pets, he also created the Michelson Prize and Grants to challenge research scientists to come up with a cheap, safe, and effective one-dose pill for cats and dogs to induce permanent infertility. The winner of the Michelson Prize in Reproductive Biology will take home $25M and the satisfaction of knowing that fewer pets will be put down because of overpopulation.
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For both dairy and beef production, cows are an important part of the US economy and food supply. When they get sick, it's bad for business (and not too pleasant for the cow). The most common illness in cattle is Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), which accounts for losses of more than $690M annually in the US alone. To combat this threat to bovine health and productivity, the USDA has recently awarded a $9M 5-year grant to researchers at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Missouri, to study genetic selection for breeding more disease-resitant stock. A second $5M grant will go towards research into feed efficiency, again with the aim of breeding heartier, healthier, and more profitable animals.
The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) within the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University in Pullman is one of an elite group of veterinary facilities that use sophisticated molecular tools to diagnose disease, with labs for bacteriology, parasitology, pathology, serology, and virology. One threat they've been keeping a particularly keen eye out for this summer is West Nile Virus, which they have in fact found in horses, and which led the State to issue warnings for both animals (to have them vaccinated) and humans (to take extra precautions). West Nile is transmitted from infected birds, through biting mosquitos, and on to larger warm-blooded creatures. Because this has been such a hot, dry summer across most of the U.S., birds and mosquitos are finding themselves more often sharing the same rare watering hole, which may be causing the rise in West Nile cases. West Nile is an example of a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transfered between species. The role of veterinary labs like WADDL in tracking and identifying cases of these diseases is doubly important, then, as they work to prevent epidemics in our animals as well as ourselves.
The word antibacterial is popping up on more and more household items as merchandisers find that consumers generally believe that chemicals designed to kill bacteria are a useful additive to a product and boost its appeal. Very often the chemical that's added is one called triclosan, and according to recently published research by a team of University of California Davis biomedical scientists, the common polychloro phenoxy phenol causes muscle impairment in animal and lab tissue models. Specifically, it limits the ability of the muscle to expand and contract. A beating heart is one example.
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A research team composed of researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Yale University recently released a public demonstration of their Map of Life, a database that stores the geographic locations of the world's species. The demonstration version contains about 25,000 different species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish to date, but the goal is to have a complete record for every living organism on Earth.
The University of Southern California has a thriving regenerative medicine research headquarters at the Broad Center within the Keck School of Medicine. Established in 2006, the Center's $80M state-of-the-art building opened in 2010 to house eleven research teams and four core laboratories. In addition to seeking out therapeutics, though, a team of USC stem cell scientists is marrying their study of stem cell functioning to a more thorough understanding of regenerative biology as it happens naturally in many species of animal. Drs. Cheng-Ming Chuong, Randall B. Widelitz (right), Ping Wu, and Ting-Xin Jiang of the Department of Pathology discuss their lab research, which looks at stem cells in hair and feathers in particular, in a recent article published in the journal Physiology.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Steve Fluharty is the senior vice provost for research, as well as a professor and researcher himself in the School of Veterinary Medicine. Now he's got one more hat to wear, as a member of the selection committee for the newly-announced Golden Goose Awards, sponsored by a congressional committee and supported by the AAAS and a broad base of other organizations and industry. At a time when basic research in particular is hard-tasked to justify its continued funding, the point of the awards is to look positively at the sometimes-serendipitous nature of scientific progress so as not to "kill the golden goose" (that lays the golden eggs), which all variations on the ancient fable agree is a really bad idea. Wikipedia says of the phrase: It is generally used of a short-sighted action that destroys the profitability of an asset. Exactly.
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Much in the way a service or police dog may be the advance guard for its human partner in situations where there are unknown safety factors, stem cell therapies performed on companion animals may pave the way for human treatments. To accomplish that translational goal, North Carolina State University has entered into a collaborative research and clinical endeavor with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to accelerate the development of new therapies with promising benefits for people as well as the animals on which they are initially used.