Scientists chase clearer link between Zika virus and birth defects | Read more from FBR about how animal research is advancing the fight against Zika | Implantible device targets pancreatic cancer, spares the rest of the body
February 10, 2016
FBR Smartbrief

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Scientists chase clearer link between Zika virus and birth defects
Infant with microcephaly.
Infant with microcephaly. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Scientists are spreading their research net far and wide in an effort to establish or invalidate the connection between birth defects and the Zika virus. They're exploring several hypotheses, including whether the virus directly affects fetal brains or the mother's immune system causes the damage as it responds to the pathogen. Labs are relying on past insights from animal studies, creating new models and starting primate research while collecting data from humans in an effort to piece the puzzle together. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (2/8), Nature (free content) (2/9)
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Research Breakthroughs
Implantible device targets pancreatic cancer, spares the rest of the body
University of North Carolina researchers tested an implantable device designed to direct a chemotherapy cocktail into pancreatic cancer tumors, and they found the method stopped or reversed tumor growth in mice without the intolerable side effects of intravenous treatment. The iontophoretic device delivered the four-drug combination directly into lesions using an electric field. Researchers hope the system can be used to shrink tumors in humans, allowing more patients to be treated surgically for the deadly cancer. Medical News Today (2/9)
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Flu research drug takes aim at treatment resistance
A novel molecule targets part of the hemagglutinin portion of influenza viruses that remains constant as strains mutate, an approach that could help combat treatment resistance. Mice given the drug before they were infected with influenza survived and lost less weight than those not given the drug. The drug also reduced mortality and weight loss in mice given the drug within 24 hours of being infected with influenza. (2/4)
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Rest after concussion necessary for brain recovery, study finds
Rest after a concussion is key to brain recovery, according to Georgetown University Medical Center research. In mouse models, three days of rest after a mild concussion, similar to what athletes may experience in training, restored the 10% to 15% neuronal connectivity loss documented in the study. Those with only a day of recovery time between multiple mild concussions had brain inflammation and damage that persisted a year later. United Press International (2/5), Medical News Today (2/5)
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Toxoplasma gondii infection may alter hosts' behavior
Studies in mice with toxoplasmosis have shown infected mice were less afraid of predators than uninfected mice, and researchers in France found similar changes in primates. Chimpanzees infected with Toxoplasma gondii did not exhibit an expected aversion to leopard urine. The scientists postulate that there is an evolutionary advantage for the parasite when the host becomes less fearful. The work, published in Current Biology, adds to evidence that toxoplasmosis could have behavioral affects on infected humans and might be a factor in psychiatric disorders. The Independent (London) (tiered subscription model) (2/8)
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Other News
Animal Health
IQ study in dogs may inform understanding of longevity, dementia in humans
Border collie.
British researchers who created an obstacle course to measure the mind power of dogs say their findings could help scientists understand the link between intelligence and longevity and may even offer clues about dementia. Dogs that completed the course faster tended to perform the tasks better, too, and males and females performed equally well. CNN (2/8)
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Naked mole rats not cancer-free after all
Before last week, there were no known cases of cancer in naked mole rats, a feature that was unique to the long-lived species. However, a new report documents cases in two of the rats, one living at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois and the other kept at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The cases are discussed in Veterinary Pathology. The Brookfield Zoo rat has an adenocarcinoma that may not be a threat to his health. The rat from the National Zoo, euthanized due to weight loss and other problems, had a gastric neuroendocrine carcinoma. The Scientist online (2/8)
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Policy News
Budget proposal would boost science funding, with a catch
Molecular research.
(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2017 includes a 4% increase in funding for research and development across the US government, but advocates say there's an important catch. The increase relies heavily on mandatory spending, meaning it likely faces a tougher path through Congress, and the proposals are offset by flat or lower discretionary budgets. Under the proposal, the NIH budget would be $33.1 billion, 2.6% over the 2016 level, but $1.8 billion of the total would be mandatory spending that cuts into the agency's discretionary budget. Nature (free content) (2/10)
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FBR News
How animal research could have benefited Lord Grantham
Are you a fan of the popular PBS show "Downton Abbey"? FBR has a new blog post about how animal research could have helped Lord Grantham -- one of the show's main characters -- by preventing the burst ulcer that nearly killed him. The show is set in the 1920s, and the contrast between medical knowledge then and today offers a clear example of how animal models have advanced our understanding and treatment of gastrointestinal disease.
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Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."
-- Horace Mann,
educator, abolitionist and politician
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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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