Animal models key to understanding, fighting Zika virus | Electrical device shows promise in repairing spinal cord injuries | Colorful zebrafish teach scientists about skin cell regeneration
March 30, 2016
FBR Smartbrief

Top Story
Animal models key to understanding, fighting Zika virus
Texas researchers successfully modified mice to be susceptible to the Zika virus. It's a breakthrough in Zika research because animal models are critical to understanding the virus's pathology and effect on fetal development as well as testing vaccines and treatments. The development was reported in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Research in macaques is already providing preliminary data, and guinea pigs might be another helpful model. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (3/28), STAT (3/28)
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Research Breakthroughs
Electrical device shows promise in repairing spinal cord injuries
Four decades of research that hit many roadblocks and much skepticism is giving new hope to people with paralysis, suggesting electrical stimulation of injured spinal cords can help patients move again and regain biological functions such as bladder and bowel control. The work stems back to findings from paralyzed cats that was then applied to rodent models and finally humans, leaving even the tenacious team stunned when they saw the device in action for the first time: a completely paralyzed former athlete was able to move his toe on command. STAT (3/30)
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Colorful zebrafish teach scientists about skin cell regeneration
Duke University researchers engineered zebrafish so that each skin cell is a different color, creating an eye-catching model for documenting tissue regeneration. Using the model, the researchers found at least three mechanisms driving repair after fin amputation, including recruitment of nearby cells, a size increase in existing cells and new cell development. The approach, an adaptation of the "brainbow" technique, may provide ways to study other body systems and pathologies. The Verge (3/24)
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Researchers harness the healing power of maggots
Sterile green bottle fly maggots have been used for decades to treat diabetic foot ulcers and other skin lesions, but wound healing is no faster with maggot treatments, something researchers sought to address in a new study. The study, reported in BMC Biotechnology, found that maggots genetically altered and deprived of tetracycline will secrete human platelet derived growth factor-BB while debriding a wound to induce more rapid healing. (3/28), Popular Science (3/25)
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New brain implant measures, responds directly to dopamine levels
Using pH signals, a new brain implant detects dopamine levels and stimulates production when levels fall too low, a distinct approach from other implants that rely on electrical signals and more manual optimization. The implant could be modified to accommodate other neurotransmitters, its creators say. The implant was tested in a rat model and more animal studies are planned for the device, which experts hope can one day help people with disorders involving neurotransmitters such as Parkinson's disease. IEEE Spectrum online (3/25)
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Scientists shed light on risk-linked neural pathway
Working with rat models, researchers have zeroed in on -- and successfully manipulated -- brain signals that appear to promote or discourage risk-taking behavior. The research suggests strong dopamine signals in the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain associated with reward incentives, inhibit risk-taking behavior while weaker signals promote it. The researchers enhanced the signals using optogenetics and observed risky rats becoming more conservative. The findings, published in the journal Nature, could lead to new treatments for people with addictions. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (3/23)
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Key to longevity may be hidden in roundworm genome
Restricting roundworms' caloric intake results in a longer lifespan for the creatures, and researchers want to know why. The answer may be hidden in the worms' genome, which is surprisingly similar to that of humans. A restricted diet may trigger a type of "survival mode," in which body systems divert resources from growth and reproduction to preservation of life. Adapting the concept to humans likely won't involve cutting caloric intake by 40%. Rather, researchers hope to find and target genes affected by diet to unlock the secret to longer life. Maine Public Broadcasting Network (3/25)
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Animal Health
Team tests new delivery method for canine melanoma vaccine
Dogs at play.
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Veterinarian David Vail of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine is working with physicians to test a new delivery method for a canine melanoma vaccine. In 2010, an injectable melanoma vaccine was approved for use in dogs. The researchers are testing a new delivery system for the vaccine: a modified tattoo gun with multiple punctures, which may induce a stronger immune reaction than a single injection. If it works in dogs, the approach could also prove effective in people. Wisconsin State Journal (Madison) (3/27)
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Other News
FBR News
FBR welcomes Matthew R. Bailey as EVP
FBR is pleased to announce the appointment of Matthew R. Bailey as FBR's Executive Vice President. Matt joined FBR's sister organization, the National Association for Biomedical Research, in 2005 and played an integral role in the vigorous campaign for passage of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Promoted to EVP of NABR in 2014, Matt will now serve management roles in both organizations.

Focused primarily on science and technology issues throughout his career, Matt has extensive political experience. He was previously a congressional liaison for the U.S. Department of Commerce and has held positions in both the House and Senate. Born and raised in Arkansas, Matt and his wife, Brooke, live in Washington, D.C., with their two daughters, ages 3 and 11 months. Despite his lack of sleep for the past several years, Matt brings his vibrant energy and unique leadership to FBR. Please join us in congratulating him on his new role.

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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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