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New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom

The field of biomimetics offers an innovative approach to solving human problems by imitating strategies found in nature. Medical research could also benefit from biomimetics, as a group of international experts from various fields, including a wildlife veterinarian and wildlife ecologists from Vetmeduni Vienna, point out using the example of chronic kidney disease. In future research, they intend to study the mechanisms that protect the muscles, organs and bones of certain animals during extreme conditions such as hibernation. The possibilities were published in Nature Reviews.

Through certain genetic modifications, the process of evolution has resulted in a great variety of adaptations to different environments in the animal kingdom. Many species have developed fascinating mechanisms that provide resistance to disease or help protect their cells against ageing and oxidative stress in extreme conditions. It would therefore make sense to investigate these mechanisms in other species and adapt the insights gained to develop new strategies in the field of human medicine.

An increased focus on biomimetics, the field of research that studies this approach, could lead to a medical breakthrough in the treatment of chronic kidney disease. An international, interdisciplinary research collaboration, including scientists from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, has now provided an initial overview of which animal mechanisms could be useful for the development of new therapeutic approaches to this globally spreading disease.

Solutions sought for chronic kidney disease

Physical adaptations that are of interest to biomimetics include the outstanding longevity of naked mole rats, for example, or the ability to survive extreme conditions like hibernation. “Biomimetics attempts to copy strategies that have already been tried and perfected by nature over thousands of years,” explains Johanna Painer from the Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution. Painer, in an international collaboration with experts from various different fields, researches which of these elements from the animal kingdom could be applied to human health. “We are comparing examples from human and veterinary medicine as well as from the field of biology to more quickly learn about the development of certain problems and then minimise them in the future,” the researcher says.

One of these problems for which solutions may be found in the animal kingdom is chronic kidney disease. This disease, which is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, is associated with many complications, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, muscle wasting and premature ageing. But kidney disease is also a problem in the animal kingdom. Domestic felines and wild cats are quite frequently affected by chronic kidney disease. “A possible cause is the high meat consumption and the resulting changes of the bacteria in the intestine,” says Painer. Other animals, like the common vampire bat or hibernators like the bear, have developed mechanisms that project them against the disease.

Future studies should investigate the mechanisms which, on the one hand, cause the disease in animals and, on the other hand, are responsible for certain protective effects. “Studies of felids may provide information on links between red meat consumption, gut microbiota and kidney disease. Studies of hibernating bears could help identify new strategies to treat and prevent complications such as muscle wasting, pressure ulcers, thrombosis and osteoporosis during longer periods of bedriddenness,” concludes Painer. New possibilities of organ preservation may also be found.

The advantage offered by biomimetics lies in its interdisciplinary nature. The collaboration between nephrologists — these are specialists in kidney disease and high blood pressure — and experts from other fields, such as veterinary medicine, zoology, molecular biology, anthropology and ecology, could introduce a novel approach for improving human health and help to find new treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease. “Collaboration between various disciplines creates a synergetic effect that may result in the discovery of many novel therapeutic approaches. We should make increased use of such collaboration in the future,” says Painer.

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Laboratory Equipment Maintenance

Keeping your lab equipment in peak condition is vital if the results of your experiments are going to be accurate and reliable. Precise measurements are the foundation of most science experiments, so failing to maintain your equipment could derail your entire study. Contamination can also completely invalidate your lab results, so thorough housekeeping is just as important as the more glamorous parts of working in a lab.

Labs rely on the ability to deliver accurate results in minimal turnaround time, and efficient equipment is essential to make sure that these goals can be met. In addition to this, equipment is often one of the most significant outlays in labs, where limited funding often means that expenditure must be carefully controlled.

From aiding your research to keeping your lab costs within budget, there are plenty of reasons why equipment maintenance is essential for your lab. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on lab equipment

Cleaning

One of the simplest ways to maintain your lab equipment is to clean it, but surprisingly this is something that many labs often overlook. Wiping down all the exteriors of your equipment every day and giving them a full clean once a week is sufficient to keep them in tip top condition.

Some lab equipment has to be cleaned using a specific process, so be sure to consult the manual or your lab manager if you’re unsure how to go about it. Things like microscopes, for example, must be cleaned with a 70:30 mixture of ether and alcohol to ensure they are sufficiently clean to be accurate. If a piece of equipment requires a more thorough clean, this can often be done by a qualified professional.

Calibration

It’s vitally important not to put off having your equipment regularly calibrated. If you fail to do this often enough, you may find your data becomes corrupted due to lack of accuracy. There are various services available for calibration, depending on the level of maintenance your equipment needs to ensure it’s accurate. This could range from a basic preventative maintenance to an advanced accuracy verification. If you regularly keep up the calibration of your equipment, there should be no need for anything more than a quick preventative maintenance.

Repairs

While it is sometimes necessary to replace equipment that is faulty or has stopped working, you shouldn’t jump to this conclusion every time something breaks down. Lots of lab equipment can be salvaged by simply replacing parts or performing other repair work. When it comes to larger equipment, this can be a really effective way to increase the functional life of machinery in your lab. Some parts will wear quicker than others and, if managed correctly, these can be replaced as a preventative measure, before they cause problems that put a stop to work in your lab. Centrifuges, for example, require a lot more maintenance to keep them in safe working condition than equipment that receives less daily wear.

Refurbishment

Refurbishment is a great option for equipment that is not running as smoothly as it once did. This involves taking the entire piece of equipment apart and fully cleaning each component. All pieces of the equipment are then polished and any moveable parts are re-lubricated. Parts that are faulty or showing signs of wear can also be identified and replaced during this process. Once this has been completed, the equipment is put back together and often works as well as a new item would.

Quality Replacements

Sometimes, in spite of proper maintenance and repairs, equipment will reach the end of its workable life and need to be replaced. When this happens, it can be tempting to economise on equipment by choosing a less expensive model. However, you might find that this offers a false economy, especially if it is an important part of your lab that is regularly used. Choosing high-quality equipment ensures it has the durability to stand up to regular use in the lab.

Often, higher quality equipment is also easier to find parts for, and can be cleaned and refurbished more easily. If you are only using equipment for a short time or your budget is very tight, it might be worth looking into hiring good quality equipment, rather than covering the entire cost of a new item.

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