Researchers turn to animal models to make sense of Zika virus | Read more from FBR about how animal research is advancing the fight against Zika | Brain-machine interface could give new freedom to people who lack mobility
March 9, 2016
FBR Smartbrief

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Researchers turn to animal models to make sense of Zika virus
Pregnant woman in Honduras.
(Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)
The Zika virus was first discovered in rhesus monkeys in Uganda and traced back to the Aedes africanus mosquito. Scientists are now using animal models and cell lines to confirm whether and how the virus causes neurological problems. University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Dave O'Connor is leading one such experiment, where his team is monitoring the pregnancy of a Zika-infected rhesus macaque. He says the work can be emotionally difficult, but "I've come to the conclusion that there is an ethical and a moral imperative to study the most relevant animal model to get the most impactful and valuable data," he says. The lab is making data available in real time to advance the science of Zika. National Public Radio (3/8), Nature (free content) (3/3)
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Research Breakthroughs
Brain-machine interface could give new freedom to people who lack mobility
A research team at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering implanted a brain-machine interface into the brains of rhesus monkeys and placed a bowl of grapes in the center of the room to encourage the monkeys to try to move. The BMI converted the monkeys' brain signals into impulses that moved a connected wheelchair toward the grapes. As the monkeys became proficient with the device, it began to respond to brain activity as the monkeys evaluated the distance to the grapes. The device could eventually help people who have lost mobility through disease or injury, the researchers said. Popular Science (3/3), United Press International/HealthDay News (3/3), Computerworld (3/3)
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Gene editing tool opens menagerie of possibilities
DNA samples.
(Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)
The CRISPR/Cas9 tool allows scientists a new level of gene editing precision, opening the door to development of new animal models, hypoallergenic eggs, disease-resistant livestock and mosquitoes that don't spread disease or die out entirely. However, questions about how the technology should be used and regulated remain, and experts urge scientists to be clear about how their work is beneficial. Nature (free content) (3/9)
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Brain disease research, treatment could benefit from magnetic control of the mind
Researchers describe in the journal Nature Neuroscience work showing that genetic engineering and exposure to a magnetic field can be used to manipulate brain activity, which could advance studies of brain functions and malfunctions and potentially lead to treatments for brain disorders. The researchers modified the genetic sequence encoding a brain cell ion channel to render it responsive to magnets, creating a hybrid protein they called Magneto. When the sequence for Magneto was put in zebrafish and mice, researchers were able to induce a behavioral response to magnetic fields. Ars Technica (3/7)
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Experimental depression treatments show promise
Neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa reversed signs of depression in male mice by injecting a light-sensitive gene into memory cells and activating those cells with a stream of blue light, and he believes advancements in engineering could also allow humans to be cured of depression by flipping a switch. Tonegawa and other researchers at MIT's Center for Neural Circuit Genetics have also shown that the physical traces of memories are stored in discrete circuits of cells called memory engrams. The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (3/3)
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Intermittent fasting becomes more popular as diet option
Intermittent fasting diets have become more popular, and studies in mice and humans have shown that they can reduce biomarkers for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Additional benefits seen in mice include lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases and longer life spans. Fasting lowers insulin and insulinlike growth factor-1 levels, putting the body into a standby state that might have a protective effect on cells, says Valter Longo, the director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (3/7)
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Other News
Animal Health
Veterinarians, physicians partner on oncology research
Veterinarians at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine have formed the Consortium for Canine Comparative Oncology with physicians at the nearby Duke Cancer Institute to compare human and animal treatments. Owners can enroll their dogs in clinical trials, including one that will test a therapy for dogs with oral melanoma, which is similar to mucosal melanoma in humans. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) (3/3)
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Modern medicine helps zoo animals survive longer
(John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images)
Zoo and aquarium animals are living longer than in the past thanks to improvement in care, but many suffer the same maladies that people do as they age, including joint deterioration, cancer, osteoporosis and kidney failure. Many animals are given treatments developed for humans, allowing them to live even longer. Zoos are compiling data on average life expectancies and developing policies for end-of-life care. Chicago Tribune (tiered subscription model) (3/4)
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FBR News
Share your organization's animal research policy statement
In 2015, Speaking of Research began collecting the animal research policy statements of institutions in Europe, North America and Australia and featuring them on its website. The goal is to have a central location where every animal research policy statement can be easily accessed. More than 200 policy statements or public-facing Web pages are now up on Speaking of Research's website. Is your institution's statement among them? If not, we encourage you to submit the statement.
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A legacy of support for science
Did you know Nancy Reagan was a strong advocate for Alzheimer's disease research? Read more about Mrs. Reagan's legacy of support for biomedical research in FBR's latest blog post.
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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.
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