Research in nonhuman primates accounts for less than one-half of 1% of all animal studies but has led to life-changing medical breakthroughs and rapid innovations in the fight against emerging threats. Over 400 scientists signed a letter this week reiterating those benefits and pushing back against arguments that such studies should be halted. Animal researchers embrace strict oversight and pursue their work with "compassion for both people and animals," wrote Mar Sanchez, chairwoman of the Society for Neuroscience's Committee on Animals in Research, in a separate letter addressing criticism of research involving nonhuman primates.
The Zika virus quickly passes through the placenta and disrupts the developing brain of the fetus, according to a study of pigtail macaques. Pregnant monkeys in the study did not develop symptoms of Zika infection, but white matter in fetuses' brains stopped growing within three weeks of infection, researchers reported in Nature Medicine.
Scientists are testing miniature wireless sensors implanted in rats to track neural activity in real-time. The devices are about the size of a grain of sand and consist of piezoelectric crystals that convert ultrasound waves into electricity to power transistors which record and transmit neural activity data.
A laboratory study found that two antibodies debilitated the ability of all five known strains of the Ebola virus to enter human cells and replicate, according to a study in the journal Science, and one of the compounds prevented death in 70% of mice infected with the virus. Tests in nonhuman primates are planned after production of the antibodies is boosted.
Researchers with the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center found that suppression of the BCL11A gene in mice resulted in red blood cells with at least 80% healthy fetal hemoglobin, which blocks sickling, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The FDA has given tentative approval for a clinical trial of the therapy, and researchers expect to seek final approval in October.
The H1N1 virus that caused a human pandemic in 2009 was a blend of avian, swine and human viruses for which swine served as a mixing vessel, writes researcher Emily Porter. Attention has focused heavily on the human toll, but research has found the virus also was transmitted from humans back to pigs, a kind of reverse zoonosis that is often overlooked but could contribute to further viral evolution, Porter writes, noting better surveillance of possible reverse zoonotic disease transmission is needed.
Researchers who study chimpanzee behavior have gained valuable insights into the animals' complex social structures and intellectual capabilities, including breakthroughs that can improve their care, says psychology professor Allyson Bennett, but some scientists are worried efforts to stem research involving nonhuman primates will stop that work. Chimpanzee researchers prioritize the animals' well-being, says psychologist Michael Beran: "So in some sense what the public wants -- which is chimps that are well cared for -- is exactly what we want."
The NIH, the National Science Foundation and other science agencies will be unsure about funding and unable to start new programs or end old ones without permission from Congress in the absence of a bill to fund the 2017 budget year, which begins Oct. 1. Policy experts say Congress is likely to pass a temporary spending measure instead of a budget.
Check out The Lifesaving Benefits of Primate Research, a concise, full-color brochure that illustrates how far medicine has come with the help of monkeys in research. This visually appealing resource takes a contrasting look into the past while highlighting today's innovations in pursuit of cures and treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, Zika virus, fetal development, Alzheimer's disease and much more. Also be sure to check out the companion infographic and white paper emphasizing the role of nonhuman primates in medical breakthroughs.
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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.