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Gene therapy restores hand function in rats with spinal cord injury
Researchers gave the gene therapy to rats with spinal cord injuries that resembled the type humans develop after traumatic impacts.
Rats accurately able to grasp sugar pellets following treatment 

Researchers from King’s College London have used a new kind of gene therapy to restore hand function in rats with spinal cord injuries.

The study tested a kind of gene therapy that could be switched on and off using a common antibiotic. Professor Elizabeth Bradbury from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) said the discovery means that scientists can now precisely control how long a therapy is delivered using a gene ‘switch’.

“This means we can hone in on the optimal amount of time needed for recovery,” she said. “Gene therapy provides a way of treating large areas of the spinal cord with only one injection, and with the switch, we can now turn the gene off when it is no longer needed.”

Following a traumatic injury to the spine, dense scar tissue forms, preventing new connections being made between nerve cells. The gene therapy causes cells to produce an enzyme called chondroitinase which can break down this scar tissue and allow networks of nerve cells to regenerate.

In the study, researchers gave the gene therapy to rats with spinal cord injuries that resembled the type humans develop after traumatic impacts, such as falls or car crashes.

They found that when the gene therapy was switched on for two months, the rats were able to accurately reach and grasp sugar pellets. They also found a dramatic increase in activity in the spinal cord of the rats, suggesting that new connections had been made in the networks of nerve cells.

To overcome the problem of the immune system recognising and removing the switch mechanism, the researchers added a ‘stealth gene' to hide the switch from the immune system.

"The use of a stealth gene switch provides an important safeguard and is an encouraging step toward an effective gene therapy for spinal cord injury," said
Professor Joost Verhaagen from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience." This is the first time a gene therapy with a stealth on/off switch has been shown to work in animals."

Further research is now underway to prepare the gene therapy for trials in larger species.

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Amur leopard cubs caught on camera

News Story 1
 A pair of Amur leopards have been captured on camera for the first time since their birth. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland announced the birth in July, but with human presence being kept to a minimum, it was not known how many cubs had been born.

Motion sensitive cameras have now revealed that two cubs emerged from the den - at least one of which may be released into the wild in Russia within the next two or three years. The Amur leopard habitat is not open to the public, to help ensure the cubs retain their wild instincts and behaviour. Image © RZSS 

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New canine and feline dentistry manual announced

A new canine and feline dentistry and oral surgery manual has been published by the BSAVA. Announcing the news on its website, the BSAVA said this latest edition contains new step-by-step operative techniques, together with full-colour illustrations and photographs.

‘This is a timely publication; veterinary dentistry is a field that continues to grow in importance for the general veterinary practitioner,’ the BSAVA said. ‘The manual has been fully revised and updated to include the most relevant, evidence-based techniques.’

The BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dentistry and Oral Surgery, 4th edition is available to purchase from www.bsava.com/shop