Animal research has led to vaccinations for polio and tuberculosis as well as treatments for cancer, heart disease and more, and "almost every present-day protocol for the prevention, treatment, cure and control of disease, pain and suffering is based on knowledge obtained through animal research benefiting both humans and animals," Vicki Kubic writes in this letter to the editor. "The animal research industry is an extremely regulated industry and yet despite their successes, animal rights activists would prefer to not see any future medical advancements based on their narrow-perceived views," she writes.
A study on tadpole embryos showed that depolarizing cells' electrical charge boosted the embryos' ability to resist E. coli infection, and study leader Michael Levin says the technique could lead to methods of tissue repair. Depolarization encourages the innate immune system to assemble macrophages and other cells to fight infection, possibly by changing cellular communication pathways.
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that three modifications to vancomycin not only make the antibiotic 1,000 times more potent but also might prevent bacteria from evolving to become resistant to it. The researchers will now test the drug in animal studies and seek easier ways to synthesize it.
Pregnant macaque monkeys infected with Zika virus passed the virus to their fetuses, and infection in the first trimester resulted in unusual eye, retina and optic nerve inflammation in offspring, researchers reported in PLOS Pathogens. Abnormal brain development was not detected, but study co-author Kathleen Antony noted that the optic nerve grows out from the fetal brain during pregnancy, and it is reasonable to expect the eye or parts of the eye to be underdeveloped in infected infants.
A study involving nine siblings uncovered evidence that the ANGPTL3 gene, which is involved in triglyceride metabolism, might be a druggable target for reducing the risk of heart disease. A study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who had one or two mutated versions of the gene were less likely than those with two normally functioning copies to have experienced a heart attack, and another study, published in Nature, uncovered a similar protective effect from ApoC3 mutations. Studies of potential drug candidates are underway.
An unusually high monkey mortality rate foretold the current yellow fever outbreak in Brazil that is the worst on record, one of many disease outbreaks in human history to be preceded by warning signs in animals that serve as sentinel species. Possible culprits include the warming climate, which is expected to expand the range of many vector insects including Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries yellow fever as well as the Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses.
The tick-borne Powassan virus is starting to show up more often, though scientists do not know for certain whether the trend is because of higher awareness and better testing methods or whether reforestation, climate change or suburban sprawl are causing more cases. Goudarz Molaei, who runs Connecticut's tick-testing program, is developing a model to predict Lyme disease hot spots in the state and hopes to eventually do the same for the Powassan virus, but budget constraints mean he can't test ticks for the virus.
Standards ensure laboratories conducting research on animals follow strict guidelines covering everything from animal hypnosis to climate control, and animal researchers undergo rigorous training that includes ethics and humane skills courses, writes researcher Lyz Boyd. If animal research were banned, "the world would miss out on life-changing new treatments for patients suffering from cancer, arthritis, chronic pain, and many other conditions," Boyd writes.
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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.