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Amphibian may hold key to curing cirrhosis
The liver of the Siphonops annulatus could help to cure cirrhosis in humans.

Unique liver cells break down the protein collagen

A South American amphibian could hold the key to curing cirrhosis, according to new research.

Researchers found the liver of Siphonops annulatus contains unique liver cells - known as melanomacrophages - which can remove and break down the protein collagen. In turn, this helps to minimise unwanted inflammation and reduce scar tissue which can lead to cirrhosis.

Study author Dr Augusto Coppi from the University of Surrey said: “The liver function of this amphibian, Siphonops annulatus, may provide us with a unique opportunity to solve one of the most devastating illnesses of the liver.

“We do need further in-depth investigations into how this discovery can be translated into humans, but it may have the potential to alter how we view and treat this disease.”

Cirrhosis occurs in response to liver damage. Hepatitis, chronic alcoholism or other harmful substances can all prompt the response of self-repair in the liver, which manifests as a high production of collagen and scar tissue.

As the condition progresses, liver functions such as cleaning blood become difficult. Several treatment strategies for cirrhosis have been attempted across the world including delaying or removing the underlying stimulus that causes scar tissue to form.

Dr Robson Gutierre from the Federal University of Sao Paulo said: “The ability this species has to break down its natural defences could also provide insight into immunity tolerance, a mechanism by which the liver can minimise unwanted inflammations.

"|mmunity tolerance can be studied in this species because they produce pro-inflammatory cells in the hematopoietic liver throughout its whole life, without developing chronic inflammations.”
 
The study, Melanomacrophage functions in the liver of the caecilian Siphonops annulatus, is published in The Journal of Anatomy.

Image (C) Andreas Schlüter

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Giraffe Conservation Foundation named BVNA’s charity of the year

News Story 1
 BVNA president Wendy Nevins has named The Giraffe Conservation Foundation as the association’s charity of the year for 2017/2018.

The Giraffe Conservation Foundation dedicates its work to a sustainable future for wild giraffe populations. Wendy Nevins said: ‘I have chosen the Giraffe Conservation Foundation for the BVNA Charity of the Year because I have always thought Giraffes were magnificent animals.

‘I also think it is important that we look at the wider issue of conservation and education across all species.’  

News Shorts
Scientists win award for openness in animal research

UK scientists have won an award for the 360ş Laboratory Animal Tours project, which offered the public an online, interactive tour of four research facilities that are usually restricted access.

The project won a public engagement award at the Understanding Animal Research (UAR) Openness Awards, which recognise UK research facilities for transparency on their use of animals in research, as well as innovation in communicating with the public.

The tour was created by the Pirbright Institute, the University of Oxford, the University of Bristol and MRC Harwell Institute.