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Dogs’ wet licks may aid cancer research

Dogs’ wet licks could provide the DNA keys to findings new treatments for rare cancers and other diseases in both dogs and human patients, believe scientists.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) have created the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium, a programme designed to study naturally occurring cancers in dogs to better understand why both pets and people get sick.

“Rare diseases in humans also show up in dogs. By studying the DNA of canines, we expect to more quickly discover the genomic causes of disease and more quickly find ways to better treat dogs, and people,” said Dr Mark Neff, director of the new TGen-VARI Programme for Canine Health and Performance.

Using voluntarily donated saliva, blood and tumour samples from many breeds of privately owned dogs, researchers hope that by studying canine cancers they can pinpoint the causes of human cancers. The goal is to translate that knowledge into therapeutics useful to both veterinarians and clinical oncologists.

No dogs will be harmed and many should be helped. Nearly half of all dogs 10 years and older die from cancer. Dogs will be treated as patients at veterinary clinics.

In addition to cancer, TGen and VARI eventually will study neurological and behavioral disorders as well as hearing loss and other debilitative conditions in dogs that could relate to people.

Onion, an alternative to  artificial food preservatives

Onion, one of the most cultivated and consumed vegetables on the planet, contains some components that have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, making it possible to use it to preserve food, says a new study.

The study has been conducted by researchers from the Polytechnic University of Cataluna (UPC) and the University of Barcelona (UB).

“The antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of the flavonoids of the raw onion make it a good candidate for use in food preservation,” said researcher Jonathan Santas from the department of nutrition and bromatology at the University of Barcelona (UB).

The study has shown that the flavonoids of onion, in addition to having beneficial properties for health, increase the life of foods, and so “they are a natural alternative to artificial additives used in the food industry”.

Flavonoids are phenolic compounds (with the phenol group), which are synthesised by plants. The results confirm that, especially the yellow variety, is “a good source of these types of substances, and there is a positive correlation between the presence of flavonoids and their antioxidant capacity”.

New epoch might see sixth largest mass extinction

A team of scientists has suggested that the Earth might be on the threshold of entering a new geological epoch, which might include the sixth largest mass extinction in the Earth’s history.

The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years.

They contend that recent human activity, including stunning population growth, sprawling megacities and increased use of fossil fuels, have changed the planet to such an extent that we are entering what they call the Anthropocene (New Man) Epoch. The term Anthropocene has provoked controversy.

However, as more potential consequences of human activity — such as global climate change and sharp increases in plant and animal extinctions — have emerged, the term has gained support.

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