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Animals


— Medical

Cultured liver cell microreactor might replace animal testing

Finding alternatives to animal testing is an important endeavor. While the practice has been banned in the cosmetic products industry since 2013, it's still a central part of evaluating the effectiveness and dangers of new medication, with researchers usually using laboratory rodents to test out their latest drugs. Now, a team lead by scientists at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology has created a microbioreactor that has the potential to provide medication testing using cultured liver cells rather than animals.

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— Biology

Beastcam gets quick 3D scans of live critters

When studying wild animals such as sharks, it can be difficult to get ahold of one every time you want to check something out. Having a 3D model of the creature would certainly help, although getting a shark to sit still for several minutes while being scanned could be quite the challenge. That's why a University of Massachusetts Amherst team led by biologist Duncan J. Irschick created the portable, quick-scanning Beastcam.

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— Biology

New software provides an animal-eye view of our colorful world

Have you ever looked at a flower and thought, "I wonder what these colors would look like to a bee"? Perhaps not, but in any case, you can now find out using your own camera and computer. That's because scientists from the University of Exeter have developed the Multispectral Image Calibration and Analysis Toolbox, a piece of free software that lets you see the colors in photos the way that various animals would see them.

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— 3D Printing

Synthetic rhinoceros horn could help save real rhinos

When asked to name an endangered species, rhinos are probably one of the first animals to come to most peoples' minds. In both Africa and Asia, poaching is causing populations to plummet, due mainly to demand for rhino horn as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine – whether or not it actually has any medicinal value is another question altogether. In any case, San Francisco-based biotech startup Pembient is developing what it hopes could be a solution: inexpensive bioengineered rhino horn, which could out-compete the genuine item.

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— Medical

Photoswitch therapy restores vision to blind lab animals

A new genetic therapy that helped blind mice and dogs respond to light stimulus could restore sight to people who suffer from diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (a gradual loss of vision from periphery inwards). The therapy uses chemicals known as photoswitches, which change shape when hit with light, to open the channels that activate retinal cells. Treated mice can distinguish between steady and flashing light, while dogs with late-stage retinal degeneration also regain some sensitivity to light. Read More
— Science

Mantis shrimp's eyes inspire new cancer-detecting camera

One of nature’s most notorious psychopaths may be giving cancer patients new hope. The mantis shrimp is famous for having a punch like a .22 bullet and a perpetual bad attitude, but is also has the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom, which are excellent at detecting polarized light. With this in mind, the University of Queensland is developing new cameras based on the mantis shrimp’s eyes that can detect a variety of cancer tissues. Read More
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