Hexbyte Glen Cove Cats less stressed after adoption by families with children with autism, study finds thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Cats less stressed after adoption by families with children with autism, study finds

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

While researchers have found that adding a shelter cat to the family can help lower stress and anxiety for children with autism, a new study at the University of Missouri shows that joining a family does wonders for the felines, too.

“It’s not only important to examine how families of children with autism may benefit from these wonderful companion animals, but also if the relationship is stressful or burdensome for the shelter cats being adopted into a new, perhaps unpredictable environment,” said Gretchen Carlisle, a research scientist at the MU Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI) in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “In our study, we found the cats acclimated well to their new families and became significantly less stressed over time.”

The findings, published Monday in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, highlight the mutual benefits of human-animal interaction and build off previous MU research that found pets may help reduce stress and anxiety for both children with autism and their parents.

Carlisle and her team monitored shelter cats for 18 weeks after being adopted by Missouri families with at least one child with autism. The cats were first screened using the Feline Temperament Profile to identify shelter cats with a calm and laid-back temperament. After families selected a cat that had passed the screening, researchers made home visits to check on the cats 2-3 days after adoption and then every six weeks for 18 weeks, to see how they acclimated to their newly adopted families.

“Cortisol is a stress measure we tracked through collecting samples of the cats’ feces, and we noticed a significant decrease in over time,” Carlisle said. “Cats also tend to lose weight due to not eating if they are stressed, but we found the cats actually gained a bit of weight initially after adoption and then maintained their weight as time went on, so both findings indicated the cats acclimated well.”

Carlisle explained that children with autism may have sensitivity or sensory issues and occasional problem behaviors accompanied by loud, sudden outbursts. Because of those concerns, shelter cats that have been screened for a calm, easy-going temperament may increase the likelihood of a better long-term match for both the children and the cat.

“It’s crucial to look after the welfare of the cats from a humanitarian standpoint, and this research also helps animal shelter staff overcome the financial and management hurdles that can result when cats are returned to shelters if there is not a good fit with the adopted family,” Carlisle said. “Obviously, the shelters want to place all of their cats in homes, but some families may require a more specific fit, and using research-based, objective measurements for screening temperament may help increase the likelihood of successful, long-term matches. Our hope is that other scientists will build on the work of our exploratory study so shelter cats and families of children with autism might benefit.”

“Exploratory study of fecal cortisol, weight and behavior as measures of and welfare in shelter cats during assimilation into families of children with autism spectrum disorder” was published Monday in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Cats less stressed after adoption by families with children with autis

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Hexbyte Glen Cove The chemistry lab inside cells thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove The chemistry lab inside cells

Hexbyte Glen Cove

(A) X-ray crystal structure of QhpG and schematic of crosslinked QhpC. The substrate QhpC is bound to the pocket formed by the catalytic domain, which includes the FAD cofactor and the small domain. (B) QhpG-catalyzed dihydroxylation reaction. Credit: Osaka University

Investigators from the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research at Osaka University, together with Hiroshima Institute of Technology, have announced the discovery of a new protein that allows an organism to conduct an initial and essential step in converting amino acid residues on a crosslinked polypeptide into an enzyme cofactor. This research may lead to a better understanding of the biochemistry underlying catalysis in cells.

Every living cell is constantly pulsing with an array of biochemical reactions. The rates of these reactions are controlled by special proteins called enzymes, which catalyze specific processes that would otherwise take much longer. A number of enzymes require specialized molecules called “cofactors,” which can help shuttle electrons back and forth during oxidation-reduction reactions. But these cofactors themselves must be produced by the organisms, and often require the assistance of previously existing proteins.

Now, a team of scientists at Osaka University has identified a novel protein called QhpG that is essential for the biogenesis of the cofactor cysteine tryptophylquinone (CTQ). By analyzing the mass of the reaction products and determining its , they were able to deduce the catalytic function of QhpG, which is adding two to a specific tryptophan residue within an active-site subunit QhpC of quinoheme protein amine dehydrogenase, the bacterial enzyme catalyzing the oxidation of various primary amines. The resulting dihydroxylated tryptophan and an adjacent cysteine residue are finally converted to cofactor CTQ.

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