Closure of NIH chimp program could have public health implications, FBR warns | New gene therapy for cystic fibrosis shows promise | Implantable devices could advance pain care, study finds
November 18, 2015
FBR Smartbrief
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Closure of NIH chimp program could have public health implications, FBR warns
The NIH is winding down its chimpanzee research program, with its remaining animals being moved to sanctuaries. The organization retired many of its chimps two years ago but has kept a small population for certain research of high public health importance, and observers warn eliminating that resource could have serious implications. "Given NIH's primary mission to protect public health, it seems surprising," says FBR President Frankie Trull. Nature (free content) (11/18)
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Research Breakthroughs
New gene therapy for cystic fibrosis shows promise
Treatment of animal models with a new gene therapy for cystic fibrosis looks promising, according to researchers. Most mice that received the recombinant adeno-associated virus gene treatment delivered to their airways recovered. Tests on intestinal cells from humans with cystic fibrosis were also successful. The gene therapy restored normal cellular chloride and fluid movement, the mechanism disrupted in cystic fibrosis. Medical News Today (11/16)
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Implantable devices could advance pain care, study finds
Researchers implanted LED devices in mice and controlled pain responses by remotely activating light pulses and directing them toward neurons. The tiny devices are made of small, soft material similar to tissue that can be implanted in the animal for extended periods, potentially replacing older models with less flexible applications. The study holds promise for new approaches to understanding and maybe even treating chronic pain. MIT Technology Review online (11/16)
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Researchers begin to unravel microbiome-immune system interactions
Researchers have demonstrated the commensal bacteria that comprise the microbiome of the skin colonize mice within a few days of birth. The report, published in Immunity, explores how microbes adapt to the skin environment and how the murine immune system responds. The research indicates colonization soon after birth primes the immune system to tolerate microbes it otherwise might not, and the findings suggest possible harms associated with giving children antibiotics early in life. The Scientist online (11/17)
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Study suggests numerous coronaviruses might pass readily among animals and humans
University of North Carolina infectious disease researcher Ralph Baric created a coronavirus similar to SARS with a protein from a horseshoe bat appended to the surface that was infectious to human lung cells and in mouse models, suggesting the bat virus and other coronaviruses may pass directly from animals to people. The work, published in Nature Medicine, reignites debate over gain-of-function research, which makes pathogens more virulent in the name of science. The Scientist online (11/16)
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Scientists map gene expression in the human brain to advance research
Allen Institute for Brain Science researchers working with data from the Allen Brain Atlas found just 32 gene-expression patterns in the human brain, far less than the hundreds of thousands expected. The team, whose work was published in Nature Neuroscience, compared the gene expression patterns with those seen in mice to shed light on the utility of animal research, finding similarities in genetic expression associated with neurons but not glial cells. Forbes (11/16)
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Human brains more genetically flexible than those of chimps, study suggests
Humans outlearn chimpanzees because our brains are more genetically flexible, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to researchers, chimps' brains are organized much more rigidly than human brains, placing more limitations on how their brains develop and how they learn new skills. The study used MRI scans to study 218 humans and 206 chimps, focusing on genetically related individuals. (11/16)
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Other News
Animal Rights Activity
Group urges neighbors to harass NIH staff over animal research
A letter reportedly sent by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to residents in two Washington, D.C.-area suburbs urges neighbors of NIH Director Francis Collins and NIH researcher Stephen Suomi to call and pay in-person visits to the scientists' homes in an effort to stem animal research. Experts in the research community said the act was dangerous and demonstrates how animal rights groups' "arguments about the value of the science [fail] on [their] merits, so they resort to these deeply personal attacks," said neuroscientist David Jentsch. (11/18)
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FBR News
FBR president: We're killing chimps with kindness
FBR President Frankie Trull is featured in the opinion section of USA Today. In her op-ed titled "We're Killing Chimps with Kindness," Ms. Trull discusses how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recent designation of chimpanzees to its "endangered" list is effectively signing the death warrants for countless chimps.
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You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- William Faulkner,
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The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) is the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to improving human and animal health by promoting public understanding and support for biomedical research. Our mission is to educate people about the essential role animal research plays in the quest for medical advancements, treatments and cures for both people and animals.
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