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Ground squirrels shed light on new stroke treatments
Blood flow to the brain is dramatically reduced in ground squirrels during hibernation.
Molecule could help to protect brain cells in human stroke patients

Scientists say they have identified a potential drug that could protect the brains of ischemic stroke patients, by mimicking a cellular process that takes place in ground squirrels during hibernation.

Blood flow to the brain is dramatically reduced in ground squirrels during hibernation, yet they emerge from it without any ill effects.

In humans, ischemic strokes occur when a clot cuts off the blood flow to part of the brain, depriving cells of oxygen and nutrients such as blood sugar glucose.

Currently, the only way to limit cell death is to remove the clot as quickly as possible. Treatments to help brain cells to survive oxygen and glucose deprivation could dramatically improve outcomes for patients.

Researchers recently discovered that a cellular process known as SUMOylation goes into overdrive in a certain species of ground squirrel during hibernation. Further study confirmed the suspicion that this is how the animals’ brains can survive reduced blood flow during hibernation.

“If we could only turn on the process hibernators appear to use to protect their brains, we could help protect the brain during a stroke and ultimately help people recover,” said lead author Joshua Bernstock.

Francesca Bosetti, programme director at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, added: “For decades scientists have been searching for an effective brain-protecting stroke therapy to no avail.

“If the compound identified in this study successfully reduces tissue death and improves recovery in further experiments, it could lead to new approaches for preserving brain cells after an ischemic stroke.”

Scientists now plan to test whether the compound, ebselen, can protect the brains of animal models of stroke.

The findings have been publishing in the FASEB journal.

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Vets save premature penguin chick

News Story 1
 Vets have saved a tiny Humboldt penguin chick after her egg was accidentally broken by her parents. Keepers at ZSL London Zoo were shocked to find the chick, named Rainbow, still alive and rushed her straight to the Zoo’s on-site veterinary clinic.

It was a little way to go until the chick should have hatched, so the process was touch and go. Vets removed bits of shell from around the chick with tweezers until she could be lifted out and placed in a makeshift nest.

Rainbow is now in a custom-built incubation room where she spends her days cuddled up to a toy penguin. Keepers will hand-fed Rainbow for the next 10 weeks until she is healthy enough to move to the penguin nursery.  

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BVA infographic to help shoppers understand farm assurance schemes

An infographic to help members of the public understand farm assurance schemes has been produced by the BVA. The infographic outlines BVA’s priorities for animal welfare and shows whether or not the schemes address these priorities in their standards.

BVA president John Fishwick said: “The infographic is not intended to be a league table but to allow people to understand what aspects of animal health and welfare are addressed by assurance schemes so that they can decide which scheme best aligns with their own individual preferences and priorities."