Finances drive decision to close Md. primate research lab | Transgenic chicken produces drug that saves infant lives | Regular exercise improves immune system, animal models show
December 16, 2015
FBR Smartbrief

Top Story
Finances drive decision to close Md. primate research lab
The NIH is phasing out research on primates at a Poolesville, Md., lab. Constantine Stratakis, scientific director of the agency that oversees the lab, says the decision was made because of financial constraints and not in response to pressure from animal rights groups. He emphasized the value of the lab's research legacy and said the work will continue using previously collected samples. "There is a treasure trove of material that has been collected over the years," Stratakis said. "The lab has made critical observations on the impact of certain behavior on genetics." (12/14)
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Research Breakthroughs
Transgenic chicken produces drug that saves infant lives
The FDA has approved transgenic chickens that produce a drug to fight lysosomal acid lipase deficiency, a disorder that is rapidly fatal in newborns and causes cardiovascular disease and liver enlargement, fibrosis and cirrhosis in adults. The drug, called Kanuma, is produced in eggs and represents the latest of a small number of "farmaceuticals," including an anticoagulant made in goat's milk. Pediatrician Barbara Burton said Kanuma will revolutionize care for infants with the disorder. (12/9)
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Regular exercise improves immune system, animal models show
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Mice that swam daily not only lost body fat but also developed a more effective immune system than sedentary mice, researchers report in findings expected to apply to humans. Exercise induced mild tissue damage, sparking an inflammatory response in the exercising mice that seemed to prime their bodies to fight off infection. When exposed to a pathogen, the immune response in sedentary mice surged, causing harmful inflammation in the lungs, while mice that had been physically active had a more moderate response and suffered milder illness. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (12/16)
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Cornell achieves first-ever successful IVF in a dog
A dog delivered seven healthy puppies after veterinary college researchers at Cornell University conducted the first-ever successful in vitro fertilization in a dog. The work is described in a PLOS One paper. After overcoming several obstacles associated with the canine reproductive cycle, researchers hit on two keys to success -- giving eggs an extra day in the oviduct before harvest and adding magnesium to the cell cultures, according to veterinarian Alex Travis. Success could lead to cures for canine genetic disorders when IVF is combined with gene editing techniques, and the approach could be applied to wild canids. CBS News (12/9), National Public Radio (12/10)
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Research raises hopes for lifesaving liver fibrosis treatment
Salk Institute scientists have discovered a drug that shows promise for inhibiting and even reversing liver fibrosis by blocking a scar-promoting protein. In mouse models, the agent known as JQ1 stopped or reversed liver fibrosis, and efficacy in humans could restore hepatic function in gravely ill patients, saving lives and eliminating the need for organ transplants. The drug might also treat fibrosis in other organs, and similar compounds are being studied as potential cancer treatments. The San Diego Union-Tribune (12/13)
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Sea lion study may reveal clues to human memory and seizure disorders
Sea lion.
(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)
New research sheds light on a threat to sea lions, and it also provides a model for experiments involving wild animals. The marine toxin domoic acid causes ocean water to appear red and shrinks the hippocampus of sea lions that are exposed by ingesting high levels of the toxin in their prey. Research showed that affected animals suffered short- and long-term memory impairment as well as seizures. The findings could inform studies of human memory impairment and epilepsy, said neurobiologist and veterinarian Paul Buckmaster, who was a consultant on the study. (12/14)
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Proteins show promise for carrying drugs across the blood-brain barrier
New mouse research could facilitate treatment of brain diseases such as Alzheimer's by helping drugs cross the blood-brain barrier. The research looked at three brain proteins, two of which are heavily expressed in humans. The molecules were capable of transporting and depositing antibodies across the blood-brain barrier in mouse models, a process that, when combined with a bispecific antibody that adheres to the protein and a brain target, could be harnessed to treat diseases of the brain. The San Diego Union-Tribune (12/10)
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Other News
What Do You Think?
What was the biggest science news story of 2015? 
VoteGenetically modified salmon are approved by the FDA.
VoteInternational summit held to discuss ethics on human gene editing.
VoteNIH retires all chimps for medical research.
VoteResearchers are closer than ever to having a universal flu vaccine.
Last week, FBR SmartBrief asked readers about how species have contributed to R&D:
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Which animal has made the greatest historical contribution to scientific and medical research and discovery?
Mouse  59.29%
Rat  21.07%
Non-human primate  12.14%
Dog  6.79%
Cat  0.71%
Animal Health
Canine influenza risk varies, experts say
Dogs playing at park.
The virus passes readily among dogs. (AFP/Getty Images)
This year's canine influenza outbreak was caused by a mutated form of H3N2 avian influenza that was new to the US, sickening over 1,500 dogs in 25 states, and now veterinarians have a new vaccine at their disposal to prevent future infections. Eight dogs died from infection, but not all dogs are at risk, veterinarians say. Overall health status, geographic location and exposure to other dogs are important considerations, veterinarians say. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (12/12)
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