The modern medical era began when an absent-minded British science named Alexander Fleming returned from vacation to find that one of the petri dishes he forgot to put away was covered in a bacteria-killing mold. He had discovered penicillin, the world's first antibiotic.

Ninety years later, the world faces an antibiotic crisis. Superbugs have evolved resistance to dozens of drugs in doctors' arsenals, leading to infections that are increasingly difficult to treat. Global deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections are predicted to hit 10 million a year by 2050. So in labs around the world, scientists are racing against time to cultivate new microbe-destroying molecules — but most of the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

With due respect to Fleming, microbiologist Sean Brady thinks it's time to shift tactics. Instead of growing antibiotics in a petri dish, he hopes to find them in the ground.

“Every place you step, there’s 10,000 bacteria, most of which we've never seen,” said Brady, a professor at Rockefeller University in New York. Many of these bacteria behave in ways that aren't yet understood and produce molecules that haven't been seen before.

“Our idea is, there’s this reservoir of antibiotics out in the environment we haven’t accessed yet,” Brady said.

That idea is beginning to pay off: In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology, he and his colleagues report the discovery of a new class of antibiotic extracted from unknown microorganisms living in the soil. This class, which they call malacidins, kills several superbugs — including the dreaded methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — without engendering resistance.

You won't find this antibiotic at your pharmacy next week, Brady cautioned. It takes years for a novel molecule to be developed, tested and approved for distribution. But its discovery is proof of a powerful principle, he said: A world of potentially useful untapped biodiversity is still waiting to be discovered.

Though antibiotics are prized for their ability to combat the microbes that make humans sick, most of them actually come from bacteria. For example, streptomycin, which has been used to treat tuberculosis and plague, is produced by the bacterium Streptomyces griseus. (This microbe was originally found in the dirt of a New Jersey farm field, though the antibiotic research was conducted using cell cultures.)

Bacteria have been fighting one another for billions of years — far, far longer than humans have been around — so it's hardly surprising that they have evolved all the best weapons. Yet the vast majority of these microbes don't grow well under controlled laboratory conditions, making them difficult to study.

“Maybe, using that simple culture-based approach, we’ve missed most of the chemistry that are produced by bacteria,” Brady said. 

It would be better to derive interesting molecules directly from the environment. And with the advent of metagenomics, techniques that allow all the genetic material in a sample to be sequenced en masse, researchers can do just that.

For this study, Brady's team cloned vast quantities of DNA from hundreds of soil samples contributed by citizen scientists across the country and then sorted through the material in search of interesting sequences.

“Most of what’s there is completely unknown, and that’s the future,” Brady said.

He and his colleagues were looking specifically for a known gene associated with the production of calcium-dependent antibiotics — molecules that attack bacterial cells, but only when calcium is around. It's thought that the existence of such an “on-off” switch may make it harder for microbes to evolve resistance. Because of this, the gene for calcium dependence might serve as a flag for a much longer sequence controlling the production of antibiotics — much the same way that coming across instructions for making crust might flag cookbook readers that they've found a recipe for pie.

Having identified a sequence containing the calcium-dependence gene, the researchers cloned it and injected it into a microbe that can be cultured. Soon enough, those microbes were making malacidins. When applied to cuts in the skin of MRSA-infected rats, the previously unknown molecule successfully sterilized the wounds. The bacterium didn't show signs of resistance, even after three weeks of exposure.

According to Brady, malacidins work by interfering with the process that bacteria use to build their cell walls. Human cells rely on a different process, so the antibiotic isn't toxic to people.

He and his colleagues don't know what species the molecules come from, but they don't need to — they already have the genetic blueprint for building it. “The effort now is to scale it,” he said.

Two years ago, Brady launched a company called Lodo Therapeutics, which aims to accelerate the discovery process and ultimately produce new medications that can be used to treat disease.

Brady is not the only scientist with this idea. Researchers elsewhere are using metagenomics to seek out new antibiotics in ocean water and insect guts. Meanwhile, the same technique has been applied to urban sewageand polluted lakes to reveal the vast extent of antibiotic resistance.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Northeastern University microbiologist Kim Lewis noted that searching for the calcium-dependence gene allowed Brady's team to sort through massive amounts of DNA. “They've used a clever approach to mine for antibiotics,” he said.

But Lewis, who was not involved in the research, pointed out that Brady and his colleagues will need to continue identifying new DNA signatures associated with antibiotics for their technique to keep working: “Now we need to say, 'You guys can do even better.' ”

AuthorErin McCulley

Biomedicine just took another leap forward. University of Colorado Boulder scientists created so-called electronic skin—e-skin for short. The e-skin is a thin, semi-transparent material that can act like your skin through measuring temperature, pressure, humidity and air flow. The new material, which was detailed in a study published Friday in Science Advances, could make better prosthetics, improve the safety of robots in the future and aid development of other biomedical devices.  

"This has quite broad applications, in a sense, to enable sensation of otherwise passive systems," Jianliang Xiao, mechanical engineer at Boulder who led the study, told Newsweek. Those passive systems are the electronic devices we use, but which don't have the same capabilities that our skin naturally has.

This e-skin has the ability to sense for pressure, which is a key factor for improving prosthetic limbs. For instance, if the e-skin is wrapped around a prosthetic hand, the e-skin would enable the prosthetic to sense for pressure when holding a glass cup. Knowing how much pressure the mechanical hand is applying could prevent a person using it from accidentally crushing the cup, Xiao explained. 

"If you think about what real skin can do, real skin can prevent people getting burned [and] can prevent people getting hurt," Wei Zhang, a chemistry professor at Boulder and co-author of the study, told Newsweek. "E-skin can basically mimic those [preventative] functions. At least that's one big part of the electronic skin." 

The e-skin also has applications for the future of robots. In the future, should robots handle babies in some form, they would be able to feel for pressure and temperature. 

"Sensing is critical because when human beings interact with robots, we want to make sure that robots don't hurt people," Xiao said. Robots in the future could be handling a baby and, if the robot can feel for pressure, the robot could handle a baby more safely. Detecting a fever is another benefit.

“When the baby is sick, the robot can just use a finger to touch the surface,” Xiao said. Then, “it can tell what the temperature of the baby is.” 

The material is made from a polymer network called polyimine as well as silver nanoparticles, the latter which provide strength, chemical stability and electrical conductivity. Researchers explained that the e-skin can heal itself, just by mixing compounds found in ethanol with the material. Heat and pressure can allow the e-skin to wrap around curved objects easily, such as human skin and intricate robotic hands. Plus, the material is recyclable, which is what researchers say makes their e-skin material unique. 

"I think we are the first group to demonstrate recycling of such multifunctional e-skin," Xiao said. E-skin is recycled by soaking the polymers into a solution that degrades the polymers down and separates the silver nanoparticles, which sink down to the bottom of the solution. "What drives us to make such devices to be recyclable is because, nowadays, we are facing very serious environmental pollution due to tens of millions of tons of electronic waste,” he added.  

Zhang took the recyclability concept a step further. He sees a future where you can simply soak your cell phone or your laptop in a solution that dissolves the materials down to be reused again. That would be the "dream," he said. 

AuthorErin McCulley

Many adults who use ibuprofen and other so-called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs take too much, increasing their risk of serious side effects like internal bleeding and heart attacks, a U.S. study suggests.

About 15 percent of adults taking ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or other NSAIDs like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex), meloxicam (Mobic) and diclofenac (Voltaren) exceeded the maximum recommended daily dose for these drugs, the study found.

"NSAIDs are among the most commonly used medicines in the U.S. and worldwide," said lead study author Dr. David Kaufman of Boston University.

"These drugs can have serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and heart attacks, and are often taken without medical oversight because many products are available over-the-counter," Kaufman said by email. "The attitude that users can choose their own dose regardless of label directions, along with poor knowledge of dosing limits, is associated with exceeding the daily limit."

For the study, 1,326 people who reported taking ibuprofen in the previous month completed online medication diaries every day for one week.

All of the participants took ibuprofen during the diary week, and 87 percent of them only used over-the-counter, or nonprescription, versions, researchers report in Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety.

Overall, 55 percent of participants took ibuprofen at least three days during the week, and 16 percent took it every day.

In addition to ibuprofen, 37 percent of the participants reported taking at least one other NSAID during the week, most often aspirin or naproxen. Less than half of them recognized that all of the products they were taking were NSAIDs.

One limitation of the study is that researchers only focused on recent and current ibuprofen users, which may not reflect what doses might be typical for sporadic or new users, the authors note.

Even so, the findings highlight a potential downside of making NSAIDs widely available without a prescription, said Dr. Gunnar Gislason, director of research for the Danish Heart Foundation in Cophenhagen.

"I believe that the message sent to the consumer when these drugs are widely available in convenience stores and gas stations is that these drugs are safe and you can use them safely for pain relief - thus no need for reading the label," Gislason, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.

Even when people do read the label, they may still ignore it.

"If the recommended dosage does not give sufficient pain relief, it is easier to take more pills than seeking professional advice from a healthcare person or doctor," Gislason added.

While doctors may prescribe NSAIDs for some muscle and joint disorders and certain other health problems, these drugs aren't appropriate for many of the reasons that patients may buy them at the drugstore, said Dr. Liffert Vogt of the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

"In my opinion NSAIDs should not be available as an over-the-counter drug, because of all their deleterious effects," Vogt, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.

"For occasional use, acetaminophen (again in the right dose) is a much safer option and very efficacious as a pain killer," Vogt added. "But we know that many people use NSAIDs for indications other than pain, such as flu, allergies, fever - and there is no medical base that indicates that NSAIDs or acetaminophen are of any use under these circumstances."

SOURCE: Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety, online January 26, 2018.

AuthorErin McCulley

Parents worried about peanut allergies now have some surprising new guidance: Give some peanut to your babies.

New guidelines out Thursday say that even babies with the highest risk of having a peanut allergy should be given small doses of the nut because it might prevent the allergy from ever developing,

Most kids should get a taste of peanut protein by the time they are 6 months old, and they should get regular doses if they don’t have an allergic reaction. Those at highest risk should be tested in a specialist’s office.

“We actually want all children to have peanut introduced,” Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergy specialist at Children's Hospital Of Colorado, told NBC News.

“There is a window where the immune system isn't going to recognize peanut as dangerous and that we believe happens very, very early."

It’s a big change from previous guidelines, which recommended that people keep peanuts and peanut products away from their kids completely until they are 3 years old if there is a risk of allergies.

The new guidelines from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and other groups follow up on findings that giving peanut to kids early enough in life can train their immune systems so they don’t overreact and cause a dangerous allergic reaction.

"Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs," NIAID Director Dr. Tony Fauci said in a statement.

The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home.

HIGH-RISK INFANTS are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. Those babies should be tested at a specialist’s office when they’re 4 to 6 months old and have started taking solid food.

The specialist can watch the infant to make sure nothing dangerous happens when they get a little dose of peanut. The benefits can be enormous.

“We know that these children with severe eczema and or egg allergy had about an 80 percent reduced chance of developing peanut allergy if peanut was introduced between four to 11 months of life,” Greenhawt said.

“That's a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”

Even if they have a sensitivity to peanuts, they may not be fully allergic and being fed a small dose of peanut may help prevent the allergy from ever developing, according to the new guidelines.

It may scare parents, but it shouldn’t, Greenhawt said.

“We believe the process to be very, very safe,” he said. In a study published last year, none of the infants given tiny doses of peanut protein had severe allergic reactions.

MODERATE-RISK INFANTS are those with mild to moderate eczema. They can be fed a little peanut-containing food at home without a doctor’s help, according to the guidelines being published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and elsewhere.

LOW-RISK CHILDREN with no egg allergy or evidence of eczema can get peanut-containing foods when parents decide but they should get some by the age of 6 months, after they start solid foods.

Whole peanuts can choke small children and no child under the age of 4 should get whole peanuts, the groups cautioned.

Kelly Schreiner of Marble Hill, Missouri tried it with her daughter Camden, who's 2 years old. Her older brother Zach, now 3, had a peanut allergy he later outgrew and Camden had an egg allergy, so Schreiner was worried.

But it worked. Camden got a little peanut in the allergist's office and she never developed a peanut allergy.

"It's important to me as a mom so that my kids can go through life without having to constantly watch what they eat," Schreiner told NBC News. "They can eat anything. They can eat peanut butter. We don't have to constantly be reading labels."

The new guidelines say family history is not a risk factor. Just because a child has a sibling or other relative with a peanut allergy does not mean he or she is at high risk, the NIAID and other groups said.

What’s important is to give a little bit to the babies and watch them carefully for a reaction, according to the guidelines.

“You're looking for signs that your child didn't tolerate the food,” Greenhawt said.

“It can be anything to a rash to vomiting, or something more severe such as coughing, wheezing vomiting, looking lethargic, looking withdrawn, or going into shock,” he added. “You need to be on the lookout just like you would like when you’re introducing any food.”

The experts on allergies say that, based on earlier studies, there are not likely to be many babies that young having a reaction to peanut.

About 5 percent of Americans have food allergies of some sort, and 1 to 2 percent have peanut allergies. Kids allergic to peanuts can have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction to even a tiny bit of peanut dust or food containing peanuts.

And, for reasons no one really understands, peanut allergies have become more common.

“Peanut allergy has literally become an epidemic in recent years, and now we have a clear road map to prevent many new cases moving forward,”said Dr. Stephen Tilles, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

AuthorErin McCulley

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville Havoc is hosting its 12th annual Melissa George Night, Saturday, February 3. The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the VBC Propst Arena. After the game, the players will auction off their game-worn pink and blue jerseys to raise money for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation. During the game, there will be a silent auction for hockey sticks used by Havoc players during pregame warm up.

In the first 11 years, the Havoc organization has hosted Melissa George Night, fans have helped raise $521,934.00. That money has been used to buy lifesaving equipment for the Regional NICU at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. Money from this year’s event will be used to buy 14 open cribs, diaper scales and breast milk warmers for the Neonatal ICU. The open cribs will promote mother-to-infant closeness while keeping safety and ease-of-care in mind for the more than 1,000 infants in the NICU each year.

The first 1,000 fans who bring an item for the Neonatal ICU parent waiting room will receive a commemorative mug.

Some of the items being requested include:

  • Keurig K-Cups
  • journals
  • board books
  • adult coloring books
  • non-perishable snacks
  • restaurant gift cards
  • $2 for parking tokens
  • preemie/newborn clothing

Players visited the unit this week to get a better understanding of what they’re playing for and why it is so special to wear that pink and blue jersey that represents little miracles that are fighting for their lives less than a mile away from where they’ll be hitting the ice. Defenseman Nolan Kaiser calls it “one of the biggest nights of the year for the Havoc.” This will be his third year as a Havoc player to wear that special jersey.

The night is especially meaningful to team owners Keith and Becky Jeffries. Their granddaughter Alana Grace was a NICU baby. “Coming up here and doing this every year and knowing what that money goes for and what they’re playing for and helping these babies, I mean it’s just a miracle what they do behind those doors.” Becky said. “And we are thankful that we can be a part of it.”

AuthorErin McCulley

The idea that each of us has a unique nutrition blueprint within our genes is a delicious concept.

Perhaps, this helps explain the growth in personalized nutrition testing and services such as HabitProfile Precise and Nutrigenomix.

So, what exactly can these tests tell you?

Kimberly Desjardine, 52, decided to try Habit last fall. She's very active. She plays tennis, practices yoga and walks regularly. "But as I've gotten into my 50s, it's been increasingly harder for me to keep those extra few pounds off." She was intrigued by the idea of diet advice based on her biology.

To get the process started, she used an at-home test kit to take blood and DNA samples. The kit instructs customers to take blood samples both before and after drinking a sugary, high-fat, test drink.

Once her samples were analyzed, she was categorized by Habit as a "Protein Seeker." It's one of seven diet types including Fat Seeker, Balance Seeker, and Range Seeker that Habit assigns.

"For me, the biggest 'a-ha' coming out of the test was that ... I need more protein than the average person," Desjardine says. Part of the testing showed that her response to starch and sugar was not ideal, so high-protein foods should be at the center of her plate. This meant she cut back on breads and other starchy foods, too.

The testing also showed that Desjardine has a variant of a gene that makes her sensitive to caffeine. "The information makes me think twice about having tea in the afternoon," Desjardine says. She had already realized that too much caffeine could keep her awake, but the new information confirmed her instincts. "The knowledge is good. It just gave me that extra 'a-ha.' "

The Habit approach is based on a bunch of different types of tests, not just genetic tests.

For instance, the caffeine test is based on DNA. But the test that revealed Desjardine's response to starch and sugar came from the fasting blood test that measures glucose response. So, that one is not based on DNA.

"Your genes are part of it," explains Neil Grimmer, the founder and CEO of Habit. In addition to the caffeine sensitivity gene, Habit also analyzes a gene linked to the digestion of lactose, as well as a variant of a gene known as FTO that may predispose people to weight gain.

But Grimmer acknowledges there are limits to what DNA tests can reveal. "So, we take a systems approach. It's a variety of tests we integrate together to give you the recommendation."

Experts say, when it comes to diet advice, it's misleading to say that the blueprint is our genes.

"DNA is important, but it plays a pretty minor role in making personal decisions about food," says cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University Dariush Mozaffarian.

So far, genes only explain about 5 to 10 percent of the risk linked to diet-related diseases such as obesity and type-2 diabetes, he says.

"For basic healthy living, it's not about your genes, it's about your behavior," Mozaffarian says.

Future advances could give new insights, but for now, a personalized diet mostly comes down to factors other than your genes. "It's your age, how much extra weight you're carrying, how you respond to eating starch [and]/or sugar, and potentially even your microbiome, that are much more important," says Mozaffarian.

He says cutting back on snack foods and junk foods that contain lots of refined starch and sugar is good advice for everyone. But, he says, there are significant differences from person to person in blood glucose responses after eating these foods.

So, when Kimberly Desjardine's tests showed her response to these starchy, sugary foods was not great, this was useful, actionable information for her. She says it's nudged her to change her habits for the better.

So, while the marketing of DNA-based nutrition advice may have gotten ahead of the science, Mozaffarian says these personalized services can be beneficial.

"The real value they have is that they get people to stop, and step back and think about eating a healthy diet," Mozaffarian says.

AuthorErin McCulley

Naked mole rats might not be the most appealing members of the animal kingdom, aesthetically speaking, but what they lack in visual appeal they more than make up for with a long list of bizarre traits that have puzzled scientists for decades. The tiny creatures outlive other rodents by a mile, they appear to be nearly immune to cancer, and they can even enter a plant-like self-preservation mode when faced with low oxygen levels. Now, scientists have discovered an entirely new superpower that the hairless creatures possess: agelessness.

A new study published in eLife reveals that naked mole rats don’t actually age — or at least they don’t age in the way that basically every other creature on the planet, including humans, seems to. Using several thousand data points, scientists were able to determine that the naked rats don’t conform to the mortality laws that govern when all other animals meet their maker. Those laws say that the risk of any one individual dying increases year-over-year until they meet their end. Naked mole rats simply don’t experience this phenomenon, and their risk of dying stay at roughly 1-in-10,000 for the entirety of their lives.

“Unlike all other mammals studied to date, and regardless of sex or breeding-status, the age-specific hazard of mortality did not increase with age, even at ages 25-fold past their time to reproductive maturity,” the researchers write.

Put simply, naked mole rats reach maturity but their bodies don’t subsequently break down in the same way that every other mammal experiences. The data is so dramatic that it has led the researchers to identify the species as a “non-aging mammal,” which is obviously a scientific anomaly.

So, if the rats are essentially ageless, why aren’t there 1,000-year-old mole rats? The scientists don’t have a great explanation for that, other than the fact that a 1-in-10,000 chance of death eventually catches up with them. Individual rats topping 30 years of age have been observed, but there’s not much concrete data beyond that point, which has led scientists to suggest that perhaps the rats simply have a delayed-aging mechanism that gives them several decades to flourish before things start to go south.

Even if that were the case, and the rats rapidly aged once reaching a certain point, it would still be a remarkable quirk worthy of further study. If researchers can determine why the rats boast such incredible longevity, it might be good news for humans, too.

AuthorErin McCulley

When Jamie Peyton first examined the bears' paws last month, she figured they might take six months to heal.

Peyton, a veterinarian at the University of California at Davis, had treated cats and dogs with burns before, and she knew these were severe. The two female black bears in her care had survived the Thomas wildfire that swept through Southern California in December, but both suffered third-degree burns that had caused their paw pads to slough off. They could hardly stand due to pain.

Instead of six months, the bears' injuries healed in a matter of weeks - a quick recovery Peyton attributed to a treatment never before tried on human or animal burn victims in the United States: Fish skins applied as bandages.

Using fish skin wasn't Peyton's first instinct when state wildlife authorities enlisted her help. They had found one bear huddling on Dec. 9 in a backyard aviary near the town of Ojai and the other two weeks later in a nearby wooded area. A third patient, a 5-month-old male mountain lion with burned paws, was discovered in the woods shortly before Christmas. Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said officials determined the three were candidates for rehabilitation, which meant transferring them to a state wildlife investigations lab near Sacramento. A vet there suggested calling on Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at the UC Davis veterinary teaching hospital.

Peyton said she first tried the usual care: Cleaning the burns, removing dead tissue and applying ointments. But she knew two very important steps - covering the burns and providing pain control - would be tricky with these unusual patients, which needed to stay a safe distance from people when not sedated.

There was no guarantee they'd gulp down pain pills hidden in their food, Peyton said. "And we couldn't put on any type of bandage material they would eat," because that might cause intestinal obstruction. Also, she said, "if a bandage comes off, you can't really go into the cage to get it."

A fast recovery was imperative, especially for the second bear. Peyton's team had discovered the bear was pregnant during an ultrasound exam, and they feared the stress of giving birth in captivity would cause her to reject the cub.

Then, the veterinarian said, she remembered a news story she had read about scientists in Brazil successfully using sterilized tilapia skin on human burns. Like the pig and human tissues that have long been applied to burns, the fish skin is moist and transfers collagen, a protein that helps healing. But it's cheaper and widely available, because it's a byproduct of tilapia sold as food. The Brazilian researchers told Reuters last year that it hastened recovery in their patients and reduced the need for pain medication.

Tilapia skin had some additional selling points in Peyton's mind: It could remain intact for several days, and no harm would come to the bears and cougar if they ate it.

"I thought this would be perfect," she said. "The skins are really, really strong, and it'll help with pain control."

Peyton procured the skin from a local fish market, sterilized it and then sutured it onto the sedated animals' paws. To keep the scaly bandages protected, her team wrapped the paws in two other edible substances: rice paper and corn husks.

"We wrap their feet like tamales," she said. "They were known either as 'tamale feet' or 'California bear roll feet. '"

The bears stood soon after waking from sedation, a sign of improvement. They also didn't remove the skin until their next application 10 days later, which Peyton took to mean the bears understood the treatment helped them feel better. Not so for the mountain lion kitten, which would eat its fish skin after a couple days.

"Cats don't like stuff on their feet," Peyton said. Fortunately, the mountain lion's burns were less severe and required tilapia only on one paw, she said. "Once he started feeling better, he was playing."

So fast did the bears' paws heal that wildlife officials decided they were ready for release in mid-January. A state biologist spent a few days hiking around Los Padres National Forest - in a spot not too far from where the bears were found, but that hadn't been damaged by fire - in search of good denning spots, Macintyre said. After she identified two about five miles apart, a team from the wildlife agency built dens from logs, brush and branches. They constructed an extra spacious one for the pregnant bear, she said.

"We wanted to give her particularly Cadillac accommodations," Macintyre said.

On Jan. 17, the bears were sedated and outfitted with their final strips of tilapia skin, as well as radio collars and ear tags. Wildlife officials drove them to their new homes, then placed them in their dens and set up trail cameras nearby. Macintyre said they're hoping to see footage of a bear cub in the coming weeks.

The mountain lion, who in the wild would have stayed with his mother until it was about 18 months old, is too young to be released. He'll go to a wildlife rescue center, Macintyre said.

Peyton, meanwhile, said she plans to experiment more with using tilapia skin to help the kind of animals she more typically sees - pets.

"You get inspired by your patients, and my goal was really to just help that first bear, and then of course the other ones came in," she said. "I've just been really impressed by how much pain release they got, and the really marked improvement in healing time."

AuthorErin McCulley