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The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to cases of babies born with underdeveloped brains and small heads, reached pandemic proportions in 2016. But before Zika started making international headlines, scientists at the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) were already working to better understand the disease.
In fact, SVM researchers were part of the team that first confirmed the presence of Zika in Colombia. Since then, they have shown that a benign bacteria can be used to prevent mosquitoes from transmitting the virus and have also developed a new model for studying the disease.
In addition, SVM scientists have joined a campus-wide collaboration looking to expand our limited knowledge of the Zika virus. They have already discovered that one infection with Zika virus protects against future infection, a promising finding for vaccine design, and they continue to learn more about the mechanisms by which the virus causes birth defects. Ultimately, more knowledge will lead to better ways to fight the disease.
While the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa claimed more than 10,000 lives, researchers from the School of Veterinary Medicine cracked the code in creating an Ebola whole virus vaccine that has been shown to effectively protect monkeys exposed to the virus.
Whole virus vaccines have been successfully used to prevent serious human diseases, from polio and influenza to human papillomavirus-mediated cervical cancer. While not tested on humans to date, the successful primate results give great hope for this breakthrough vaccine—for humans and animals here and across the globe.
New findings from School of Veterinary Medicine researchers challenge the prevailing assumptions about the cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), a brain disease that affects more than 400,000 Americans.
Until now, it’s been widely accepted that when long nerve fibers, called axons, lose their myelin-coated insulation, degeneration occurs causing MS. Focus has been on protecting the axon from demyelination. However, rats with no myelin were recently found to live more than nine months without losing their axons—more than doubling the typical survival rate of rats without myelin.
The study suggests that helper cells in these rats secreted growth factors that aided in neuron survival. A deeper understanding of these helper cell secretions could unlock new avenues of treatment for MS and other myelin-related human diseases. Once again, the School of Veterinary Medicine is at the forefront of exciting advancements where animal and human health intersect.
Researchers in the School of Veterinary Medicine have found a new way to make muscle cells from human stem cells using a technique that takes us much closer to clinical applications than other methods ever have.
The new method grows stem cells that float in high concentrations of growth factors, which ultimately encourage them to turn into muscle cells. Unlike existing methods of growing muscle cells, the new technique doesn’t rely on genetic modification, an obstacle that has previously prevented this sort of research from being applied to human trials.
The findings could have huge implications for treating diseases like ALS and muscular dystrophy. It’s exciting, innovative research like this that allows the School of Veterinary Medicine to make huge strides in improving human health care.
A local medical start-up company is partnering with the School of Veterinary Medicine to develop the Band-Aid of tomorrow.
These futuristic wound dressings have an ultrathin membrane, potentially thinner than a single cell, laced with silver nanoparticles that bond directly to the cell surface rather than in the wound fluid. Like an antibiotic, silver fights off bacteria and fungi, but it is more readily accepted by the human body. Silver is gaining wide acceptance in the medical field because of its advanced healing properties and widespread applications, from organ transplants to wound care in military environments.
As always, our researchers continue to push the boundaries of human health by applying innovative thinking to traditional concepts in medicine.
Scientists at the School of Veterinary Medicine are breaking away from traditional thinking on how we prevent influenza with a much different approach, and it could have big implications for treatment options for this disease, which kills as many as 500,000 people each year.
Influenza viruses are sneaky—infiltrating cells, feeding off what’s inside to grow and multiply. Most vaccines try to kill the virus itself, but years of evolution have resulted in resistant flu viruses—a scary phenomenon.
The approach taken by our team focuses on proteins within the host cells—proteins a virus needs to survive. Carefully studying these proteins to see which offer the most value to the virus and the least value to the host is the key. They’ve narrowed their research down to 20 key proteins, which if successfully silenced, could spell the end of infectious influenza as we know it.
This outside-the-box thinking demonstrates one more way the School of Veterinary Medicine is transforming the future of human health.