Politics, not science, stands between researchers and a universal influenza vaccine as activists push for a blanket ban on the use of animals in medical research, writes FBR President Matthew R. Bailey. Research in mice, dogs, rats, ferrets and chickens has led to influenza treatments and vaccines, but those vaccines don't always match the circulating strain, and the virus still kills up to 650,000 people worldwide each year. Promising research on rabbits and llamas, among other animals, could yield a universal vaccine unless misguided activists get their way, Bailey writes.
Army Col. Nancy Jaax, a veterinary pathologist and former chief of the pathology division at the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, led the response when monkeys shipped from the Philippines to the lab were found to have both Ebola virus and simian hemorrhagic fever. Dr. Jaax said it was difficult to see the primates so ill and know they would have to be euthanized, but she and her colleagues "understood the importance of human animal modeling and what was necessary to develop cures for disease, and we fully accepted that."
Adding 2.4% hydrogen to conventional ventilator gases improved neurologic outcomes and reduced brain and kidney injury in piglets after arrested blood flow and hypoxia, suggesting that adding hydrogen during extracorporeal membrane oxygenation could mitigate brain damage risk in infants undergoing heart surgery and in adults who experience stroke or cardiac arrest. The study was funded by the American Heart Association and Children's Heart Foundation and published in JACC: Basic to Translational Medicine.
Experimental drugs that target beta-amyloid protein in the brain have repeatedly failed to slow Alzheimer's disease progression, so researchers have started seeking other targets, such as tau proteins, boosting the brain's immune system and protecting healthy brain cells from toxins. One method that has shown promise in mice and humans is creating new neuronal connections by activating brain proteins with bryostatin-1, a compound derived from marine organisms.
Monkeys sometimes develop gastrointestinal diseases that share similarities with ulcerative colitis in humans, and a recent study comparing healthy monkeys with monkeys that had idiopathic chronic diarrhea could lead to treatments for both. The study, published in Microbiome, revealed that gut microbes in the sick monkeys expressed more genes that could contribute to degradation of the protective layer lining the intestine. Moreover, Campylobacter bacteria in sick monkeys expressed a gene that allowed it to attach to the intestinal wall, while Campylobacter passed through healthy monkeys' intestines.
Neuroscientists implanted electrodes in the region of monkey brains where object and facial recognition is thought to occur and showed the monkeys pictures, then an artificial intelligence system determined what type of image was most stimulating to individual neurons. The algorithm then predicted what an individual neuron would respond to and created new images, yielding new information about the brain and how to stimulate it.
The first of more than 800 dogs in a clinical trial have been dosed with an experimental vaccine to prevent cancer by training the immune system to recognize and respond to any of approximately 30 abnormal proteins on the surface of cancerous cells that occur in dogs and in people. The vaccine targets lymphoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and mastocytoma.
If veterinary oncologist Timothy Fan's work on osteosarcoma in dogs results in a treatment or cure, children with bone cancer could also be the beneficiaries. Fan, who has seven dogs and three cats of his own, said immune therapies have brought comparative oncology to an inflection point. "There really is a huge surge on interest in how pet dogs and cats might provide new and valuable information not answerable with traditional mouse models," he added.
The CDC's One Health office, led by veterinarian Casey Barton Behravesh, is developing a disease control framework in coordination with experts from the USDA and the Interior Department to prevent zoonotic influenza viruses, salmonellosis, West Nile virus, plague, emerging coronaviruses, rabies, brucellosis and Lyme disease in people and in animals. A CDC report details the burden of zoonotic diseases on people, pets, livestock, poultry and wildlife and recommends eight action items, including more data sharing and addressing research gaps and needs.
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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.