NABR: Let scientists, not activists, determine how to conduct research | Tech firms enlist animal researchers to help develop AI software | Animal menagerie helps untangle complicated human health questions
Some members of Congress are pushing for government agencies to phase out biomedical research involving non-human primates, but scientists and biomedical research advocates say mice and computer models cannot fully replace NHPs in research into devastating diseases such as HIV, Ebola and neurodegenerative conditions. The heightened scrutiny constitutes a "very concerning slippery slope," says National Association for Biomedical Research President Matthew R. Bailey. "Science, not politicians catering to special interest groups, should determine the most appropriate models for their work," Bailey says.
Companies like Apple and Google are increasingly hiring animal researchers and neuroscientists to assist in developing brain-computer interfaces and artificial-intelligence software. The goal is for the researchers to use their knowledge of how animals such as mice learn and respond in different situations and apply it to developing AI and robots.
Nearly all the mammals that outlive people when adjusted for body mass are bats, and biologist Emma Teeling thinks the brown mouse-eared bats she studies harbor clues in their genomes that could help humans fight cancer, infectious diseases and aging. Her team published sequencing data in Nature Ecology & Evolution that could help scientists chart molecular aging pathways, while researchers studying marmosets, rhesus monkeys and zebrafish are tackling other questions related to longevity and human health.
Although animal research has contributed volumes to science and saved many lives, it is a resource-intensive way of conducting studies that Daniel Russo and Hao Zhu hope to help mitigate. They have developed a new algorithm based on public data and computational resources to evaluate the oral toxicity of compounds, and although they say it is not ready to totally replace animal testing, it could contribute to new toxicity research protocols.
The humble naked mole rat's "magical biology" renders it inexplicably resistant to cancer, impervious to certain chemical stimuli that cause discomfort in humans, resilient in low-oxygen conditions and extremely long-lived for its size, writes Ewan St. John Smith, a pharmacology lecturer at the University of Cambridge. "By unlocking the secrets held within their cells in a responsible manner, we may one day improve countless human lives," Smith writes.
Researchers grew ovine mandible bone sections in custom-shaped 3D-printed bioreactors filled with crushed bone and implanted the mold into the sheep's ribs, where bone cells migrated and replaced the fill material. When the new bones were transplanted into the gaps in the sheep's mandibles, the existing bone knitted to the graft and soft tissue grew over the wound, suggesting the technique could be a potential treatment for craniofacial defects, researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists recently discovered that two compounds in the venom of a hard-to-find scorpion from Mexico can kill multiple strains of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, including a drug-resistant form. They collected venom from the creatures and figured out how to synthesize the compounds, which were then tested in tissue samples and mice.
Chronic wasting disease, which afflicts elk, deer and other cervids, has been found in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, and parts of Europe and Asia, and scientists are increasingly concerned it could affect other species. A laboratory study found that monkeys were susceptible to the prion disease, and new research using mice suggests different species might respond to a given form of CWD in different ways, complicating efforts to understand and control the disease.
Pirbright Institute scientists recently destroyed the lab's rinderpest samples, marking what virologist Carrie Batten called "the end of an era." In the 1890s, rinderpest killed up to 90% of cattle in parts of Africa, causing mass starvation and millions of human deaths, but a vaccination campaign enabled eradication of the disease by 2011, and Batten says destruction of laboratory samples mitigates the risk of resurgence.
Biomedical research laboratories are increasingly retiring non-human primates to sanctuaries and funding the animals' care after their studies are finished. Brain scanning technology and other advances allow noninvasive data collection from the animals, enabling them to live for years after research is complete.
Animal rights groups mislead the public about animal research, but FBR is fighting back with facts. In this resource, highly respected neuro-oncologist and FBR Board Vice-Chair Dr. Henry S. Friedman refutes myths surrounding animal research with scientific evidence and sets the record straight on the reality and benefits of animal research. Check it out.
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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.