Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Study: A New Twist On HIV Vaccines Shows Results In Monkeys

An effective vaccine for HIV has eluded researchers for several decades, due to the pathogen's infamous shape-shifting abilities.

Even though researchers have identified certain broadly neutralizing antibodies that can conquer multiple strains of the human immunodeficiency virus, many strains of rapidly mutating HIV remain resistant to the these super antibodies.

In recent years however, researches have proposed a new method of battling the virus that involves gene therapy.

Instead of using a vaccine to stimulate the body's own immune system, so that it produces HIV antibodies, scientists are bypassing the immune system entirely.

In experiments involving rats and monkeys, the researchers have used non-life-threatening viruses to alter the animals' genome so that its cells produce designer molecules capable of neutralizing HIV.

In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, a team of researchers said they had used the technique to protect rhesus macaques from repeated intravenous injections of a SHIV, a combination of simian immunodeficiency virus and human immunodeficiency virus.

Full story here.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Otters Eat Rare Monkey In Freak Accident At British Zoo

A British zoo says an endangered monkey that accidentally fell into a pond was eaten by otters.

Bristol Zoo Gardens say the rare golden lion tamarin monkey, a squirrel-sized species native to Brazil, was climbing on a branch when it fell and became trapped in the otter enclosure last month. The zoo said staff arrived too late to intervene.

The zoo made the statement after a whistleblower disclosed a series of animal deaths at the institution, including an endangered Visayan warty piglet that was eaten by its father shortly after it was born in December. The zoo said the male pig, Elvis, also attacked and killed the piglet’s mother.

The zoo’s director of conservation Christoph Schwitzer said despite their best efforts, keepers are unable to prevent unforeseen accidents.

Full story here.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Chimpanzees Change Accent To Fit In With Friends

Most people will find that their accents change subtly if they spend enough time in a different area or country.

But it seems the same is true of chimpanzees.

Scientists have discovered that when groups of chimps merge, they alter their accents until they are all grunting in the same manner.

The ability to modify vocalisations to fit in with social groups was believed to be a purely human trait until now.

"Our study shows that chimpanzee referential food calls are not fixed in their structure and that, when exposed to a new social group, chimpanzees can change their calls to sound more like their group mates," says Katie Slocombe of the University of York.

Full story here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Monkey Mustaches And Beards Reveal Evolution of Facial Hair

Colorful monkeys called guenons sport moustaches, nose spots and ear tufts that make it easy to distinguish between different species of guenons. But to the average passers-by, monkeys of the same species might look strikingly similar.

But in a new study, researchers uploaded 541 photographs of 110 monkeys of 12 different guenon species. The scientists found that a computer algorithm could correctly identify these monkeys by their faces, as well as distinguish among species.

Scientists might be able to use algorithms like this one to study which factors are important in evolution, the researchers said. For instance, the algorithms could look at which aspects of a monkey's face are important to its evolutionary success.

Full story here.