Monthly Archives: April 2014

Fruit flies that rival Michael Jackson’s moonwalking skills

Male fruit fly on a blade of grass macroThese fruit flies may not be quite as smooth as Michael Jackson, but they can certainly moonwalk!

In an attempt to understand how the brain directs the body to walk backwards, scientists turned to fruit flies. Researchers in Austria developed many different strains of fruit flies, each of which was modified so that different areas of the brain responded to heat. After testing thousands of strains of flies, they found a strain that walked backwards when the temperature was increased! And while creating a fly that can moonwalk is cool, the science behind it is what’s important; this fly is helping scientists map the neural pathways involved in walking backwards. It turns out that something that is so simple for us really isn’t understood very well. There are also some animals that lack the ability to walk backwards, and it’s possible that the evolution of these neural signals could be significant in more ways than you might think.

Check out this video and judge for yourself how these flies compare to the King of Pop… we just need some background music, and we’re all set! No word on flies that will dance to ‘Thriller,’ though. Read more here:

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend… but GOLD could help YOUR best friend!

Best BuddiesVeterinarians are investigating a gold-based drug as a treatment for dogs with osteosarcoma. About 80% of canine bone cancers are osteosarcomas, and generally the treatment involves limb amputation. Unfortunately, these cancer cells can spread to the lungs, so vets are looking at treatments that can help increase the survival rate of dogs with this disease.

Gold has been used in human medicine for autoimmune disorders because of its anti-inflammatory properties. This drug- aurothiomalate- has been used in humans in the past, and it has been successful in reducing cancer spread to the lungs. Researchers will start with cell cultures and mouse studies to determine this drug’s effectiveness for bone cancer.

It’s common that diseases in humans and animals are similar, and it would be great if this treatment proves to be successful in dogs AND humans! Read more about it here:

YOUR golden retriever could save lives!

golder retriever puppies with motherOK, I’m not assuming that your golden retriever is going to rescue mudslide victims, sniff out bombs or┬ádetect low blood sugar levels. But if you have a golden retriever, it’s entirely possible that your dog could help save lives by advancing scientific knowledge. Interested?

The Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is enrolling golden retrievers in an attempt to learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases in dogs. They’re hoping to enroll 3,000 dogs- could your dog be one of them? Click here to find out more about the study.

Golden retrievers are awesome. They’re one of the most popular breeds, but unfortunately, many die of cancer. Information gained from the dogs in this study will benefit all breeds and could possibly help humans, too. And it’s an easy enough job; during annual vet visits, it’s as simple as quick blood and urine samples sent off for analysis.

Do you own a golden? Do you have a friend with a golden retriever? Pass this along; let’s help them fill this study!

Robots performing surgery in space!

The astronautSpace surgeons: the next generation! For astronauts who need surgery in space, this small robot could literally be a lifesaver. But prepare yourself… the method sounds like something out of an Alien movie. Ready for it? This small robot has arms with the ability to cauterize and suture, a video camera head, and it enters the body of the patient through an incision in the belly button and works inside the patient’s gas-filled abdominal cavity.

It sounds pretty crazy, but it’s true! These little robots have already performed successful surgeries in living animals (pigs), and next up are trials on human cadavers, zero-gravity tests, and surgeries on human patients here on Earth.

While long-distance, remote-controlled surgeries wouldn’t necessarily be ideal for patients with access to medical care, these robotic surgeons would be the only option for astronauts on long space missions in the event of an emergency. Most activities that we take for granted here on Earth are extremely challenging in space, and it’s amazing that scientific progress is giving astronauts the option of robotic space surgeons! Read more about it here: