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Pig embryo study sheds light on human development
"...the pig can be an excellent model system for the study of early human development."
Interplay between genes is critical, scientists say

A novel pig embryo study has offered fresh insight into early human development, and could improve our understanding of genetic diseases.

How human germ cells, the precursors of sperm and eggs, form during early development has long puzzled scientists. Now, for the first time, research published in Nature shows the interplay between two genes is critical for the formation of these cells, which are key to the preservation of a species.

This ‘genetic cocktail’ changes in different species, with clear differences in the early development of humans and mice, but a much closer relationship between humans and pigs.

Dr Ramiro Alberio from the University of Nottingham said: “We’ve shown how precursors to egg and sperm germ cell arise in species with similar embryo development. This suggests that the pig can be an excellent model system for the study of early human development, as well as improving our understanding of the origins of genetic disease.”

Scientists say the knowledge gained from this approach can be applied to regenerative medicine, to derive human cell types that could help us understand how mutations that disrupt early human development lead to disease.

For Dr Alberio, this research is the culmination of a decade’s work on embryo development. He added: “We show how studying the pig embryo can help us design new methods for the differentiation of human sperm and eggs in a dish.

“The findings of our research will help scientists improve our understanding of the origins of genetic diseases such as germ cell tumours, foetal abnormalities and certain types of infertility.”

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New app to improve street dog welfare

News Story 1
 A new free app will support vital work in clinics caring for stray dogs around the world, experts say. Created by the University of Edinburgh, the tool allows vets to track the wellbeing of dogs going through catch-neuter-return schemes, which are common in countries with large numbers of strays.

Vets say the welfare of individual dogs can be overlooked during the process of capture, transport or surgery. The app, piloted across Asia and Africa, helps staff to monitor welfare, spot signs of distress and develop strategies to improve care. It was launched at BSAVA Congress on Friday 6 April.  

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Farm to fork traceability championed in new service

Defra has created a new information service to offer farm to fork traceability when the UK leaves the EU. The Livestock Information Service, which is set to be operational from 2019, will identify and track animal movements via electronic IDs, meaning the industry and government are better placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food. NFU President Minette Batters, among others, has helped lead the way on this, showing how it will drive a progressive and vibrant livestock industry once we leave the EU.”