Four Nobel laureates are among nearly 600 signatories to an open letter calling for research institutions to embrace openness and to proudly explain the important role animal research plays in advancing the health and well-being of humans and animals. "From the development of insulin and transplant surgery to modern day advances, including gene therapies and cancer treatments; animals -- from mice to monkeys -- continue to play a crucial role in both basic and applied research," the letter reads.
Researchers recently used gene therapy to repair rats' damaged spinal cords, and the research could yield tremendous benefit to humankind, writes Wesley Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism. This research could not have been conducted using cell lines, computer simulations or human patients, Smith writes.
Research on a cure for hepatitis B virus infection in people has been impeded by the lack of a suitable animal model, but scientists have discovered a species of HBV in capuchin monkeys in Brazil, potentially opening an avenue for research. In the laboratory, the virus produced HBV-like infection patterns and used the same receptor as HBV to infect human liver cells, suggesting zoonotic potential.
The University of Wisconsin's Madison campus is home to a primate research center and three swine labs, and researchers there will be studying the transplantation of pig organs into rhesus monkeys before conducting xenotransplantation clinical trials in people. The researchers will use CRISPR gene editing technology to knock out four to six characteristic genes in pigs and add genes associated with the recipient's immune system to create personalized organs for transplantation, starting with insulin-producing islet cells.
Genetically modified cholera bacteria colonized rabbits' guts in less than a day, but instead of making them sick, the bacteria appeared to protect them, potentially laying the groundwork for an oral vaccine, researchers reported in Science Translational Medicine. Another study published in the same journal demonstrated that Lactococcus lactis, found in yogurt, cheese and other fermented dairy products, prevented cholera in mice by producing acid that the disease-causing microbes can't tolerate.
A terrier mix diagnosed in December with advanced hemangiosarcoma is still alive after participating in a clinical trial involving an FDA-approved drug for human breast cancer at Johns Hopkins' Center for Image-Guided Animal Therapy. The dog began to play and eat normally during therapy, and the study leaders, veterinarians Dara Kraitchman and Rebecca Krimins, are negotiating with the sponsor and hope to continue their work on improving treatment for pets.
A decades-long campaign to eradicate Guinea worm is threatened by the worm's resurgence in dogs in Chad, and researchers are racing to identify the source. The country's government has launched an education campaign, is paying villagers to tether infected dogs until the worms emerge and is paying infected people who come forward for treatment to avoid having to euthanize all the country's dogs.
NIH grants are supposed to foster innovation and research careers, but the current system favors low-risk studies and researchers who are older, white and male, writes pediatrics professor and health policy expert Aaron Carroll. As a result of how grants are reviewed and the limited funds available, the US "may be missing out on a lot of excellent, and perhaps novel, work that can't break into the top 10 percent because of structural problems," Carroll 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.