Animals Taking a Punch at Knocking Out Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease affects over an estimated 10 million people across the globe and every year 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder.  This past weekend the world lost one of its most notable faces of the disease, boxing legend and champion Muhammad Ali.  A fearsome boxer in the ring, he was also a passionate advocate for finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease.  Another formidable fighter is taking the fight to Parkinson’s: lab animals.  The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a look at animal research and testing in Parkinson’s research in their latest blog post.

The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown but researchers know that it is a result of the loss of cells in various parts of the brain, including one portion that produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for being able to move in a coordinated way.  The loss of dopamine causes the tremors often associated with the condition.  There currently is no cure for Parkinson’s but researchers and laboratory animals around the world are working to give it a solid KO.  Research with rats and mice showed that dopamine was instrumental in controlling walking and other voluntary movements, and that a depletion of this neurotransmitter impaired movement.  In the 1980s, researchers working with monkeys were able to identify in the brain the area impacted by the disease. While researchers identified the location, they did not know how it was affected.  Researchers discovered that lowered dopamine levels led to increased activity in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) which resulted in motor abnormalities in monkeys. They could relieve the Parkinson’s symptoms by interfering with the STN.  This eventually led the way to deep brain stimulation (DBS), one method of treating Parkinson's disease.  With DBS, a pacemaker is implanted that sends electrical impulses to the brain. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of DBS to help treat Parkinson’s.

Thanks to rodents and monkeys, we have been able to give the disease some hard body blows.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to deliver the knock out punch.

To learn more about animal research and testing in Parkinson’s disease research, please click here and feel free to comment and to share with your friends, family, and colleagues on social media.

Senate Spending Bill Proposes $2 Billion More for NIH

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee yesterday marked up its version of the FY 2017 Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill. “This is the first bipartisan Senate Labor-HHS bill in seven years, and I want to thank Senator Murray for her work on this bill,“ said Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), subcommittee chair. “The fiscal year 2017 Labor-HHS bill eliminates 18 duplicitous or unnecessary federal programs in addition to the 18 from last year’s bill, and is $270 million less than last year,“ he added.  The bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, which is $270 million below the FY 2016 level and $2 billion below the President’s budget request.  The Full Senate Appropriations Committee may take up the bill as soon as tomorrow.

According to the Republican summary, the measure provides $34 billion for NIH, a $2 billion (6.3%) increase.  In December of last year, the NIH received a $2 billion boost in the omnibus funding bill that raised its budget from $30 billion to $32 billion. The new proposal includes:

•    $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, an increase of $100 million;
•    $1.39 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $400 million;
•    $250 million, an increase of $100 million, for the BRAIN Initiative to map the human brain;
•    $333.4 million, an increase of $12.5 million, for the Institutional Development Award;
•    $463 million, an increase of $50 million, to Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria; and
•    $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said, “I am especially proud that this bill doesn't include a single new damaging policy rider.”  The Democrats also released a summary.

Some Animal Research News on National Donut Day

Today, June 3, is National Donut Day.  Before you sprint to your local coffee shop for a glazed chocolate with sprinkles, you may want to read a recent article from Time and thank animal research for the warning.

It has become abundantly clear by now that a bad diet of unhealthy food harms the body, particularly with weight gain.  Junk food is high in sugar and salt but low in healthy nutrients.  Studies have shown that it can disrupt hormones, change a person’s sense of taste, and even raise the risk of mental illness.  But did you know it could damage your kidneys?  According to a study in Experimental Physiology, rats fed a diet of chocolate bars, marshmallows, biscuits, and cheese exhibited harm to their kidneys similar to that of type-2 diabetes.  Researchers analyzed the rats’ blood sugar levels and function of blood sugar transporters in their kidneys.  Upon review they were able to see what happened to the kidneys of rats that ate junk food and fatty foods, compared to the kidneys of those with diabetes.

To read Time’s report on this research, please click here.

NIH Workshop on Research with Non-human Primates (NHP)

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Associate Director for Science Policy Carrie D. Wolinetz, PhD, announced last week a workshop on September 7, 2016, that will convene experts in science, policy, ethics, and animal welfare to discuss the oversight framework governing the use of non-human primates (NHPs) in NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research.  As yet, no workshop speakers have been announced.

In her “Under the Poliscope” blog post, Dr. Wolinetz stated, “NIH remains confident that the oversight framework for the use of non-human primates in research is robust and has provided sufficient protections to date. However, we believe that periodically reviewing agency policies and processes ensures that this framework evolves in a manner consistent with emerging scientific opportunities and public health needs. Toward this end and in response to Congressional interest, the Office of Science Policy is taking the lead in planning a workshop on September 7th . . .  At this workshop, participants will also explore the state of the science involving non-human primates as research models and discuss the ethical principles underlying existing animal welfare regulations and policies…  NIH is committed to ensuring that research with non-human primates can continue responsibly…”

The workshop will be broadcast live and archived for future viewing on the NIH Videocast website.  Comments regarding the workshop may be submitted online in advance of and during the workshop for consideration.

Congress Moves on Zika Funding

The U.S. Senate voted decisively last week in favor of a bipartisan $1.1 billion measure to combat the Zika virus this year and next, cutting back President Barack Obama’s request from $1.9 billion, but offering significantly more money to fight Zika than the U.S. House.  For its part, the House approved an emergency appropriations measure providing limited funds – less than a third of what was requested – only through the end of this fiscal year (September 30, 2016), as described in this Science news report. Florida Governor Rick Scott has urged Congress to pass a Zika funding bill, according to the Miami Herald.  And a May 17 Boston Globe editorial headline said Funding to Fight Zika Shouldn’t Wait. The challenging negotiations ahead for Congress and the White House to resolve the question are described here by the Washington Times.

The fact that animal research is critical to understanding the Zika virus and finding a vaccine has been part of the public discussion.  In a Newsweek op-ed, FBR President Frankie Trull explained how primate research is key to finding a Zika vaccine.  Also, three studies showing the Zika virus causes microcephaly in mice embryos are discussed in these May 11 reports in The Scientist and the Los Angeles TimesCNN and the BBC have broadcast news stories acknowledging the contributions of animal studies to Zika research.

Are Research Rats, Mice, and Birds Protected Species?

It is often said by the animal rights community that research animals like rodents, birds, and fish are not protected by federal laws.  Yesterday, the blog Speaking of Research addressed this confusion and outlined the protections granted to these animals in research and testing despite the claims of anti-research activists.

Although not covered by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), rodents, birds and fish bred for research are federally protected.   Under the Health Research Extension Act (HREA), statutory authority is granted to the Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy).  Institutions receiving federal funds must comply with PHS Policy which contains extensive information on procedures and the care of live vertebrate animals.  This policy, overseen by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), has the authority to suspend projects and even cease funding if violations of PHS Policy are found.  Finally, at the institutional level, private accreditations and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) provides oversight and public transparency for the research.

To read Speaking of Research’s interesting coverage of this myth, please click here.

NABR’s Next Exclusive Webinar is Scheduled for July 19 – Don’t Delay, Register Now!

NABR is once again pleased to announce the return of one of its most requested webinars: the fourth edition of "Q&A with the USDA." Join Drs. Elizabeth Meeks and Bill Stokes, the USDA's Eastern and Western Region Assistant Directors for Animal Welfare Operations, for "Q&A with the USDA: The Next Generation" on Tuesday, July 19 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

This webinar presents a unique opportunity for the biomedical research community to ask questions directly to the leadership of USDA Animal Care’s Animal Welfare Operations who are directly responsible for the oversight of the inspection and reporting process. Following closely on the very successful webinar with the new head of APHIS Animal Care, this webinar provides institutions with a unique opportunity to get your detailed questions concerning compliance with the Animal Welfare regulations answered.

Questions should be submitted in advance to [email protected]. They will be reviewed and formatted to prevent duplication and will be answered in the order they are received, so please submit them as soon as possible.

As in the past we will schedule the session for an hour, but will continue the webinar until all questions have been addressed.

We expect a high number of registrations for this webinar so please register ASAP to guarantee your spot!

 

 

register now

FBR President Explains How Primates are Key to Zika Vaccine Development in Newsweek Op-Ed

Every day we hear more and more about the dangerous impact of the Zika virus and thanks to animal research and testing, science is learning more about the infection and what can be done to stop its spread.  Last week Newsweek featured a submission from Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), discussing the role of one specific species in the rush to find a vaccine to the Zika virus: nonhuman primates (NHP).  In the piece titled, “Zika Virus Vaccine Possible with Help of Primate Research,” Ms. Trull makes it clear to the public that primates will play an influential, if not irreplaceable, part in annihilating the ongoing spread of Zika.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed that the virus causes microcephaly, whereby babies are born with noticeably smaller heads and underdeveloped brains.  Scientists have also established a link between the virus and meningoencephalitis, a deadly type of brain inflammation, as well as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease that impairs muscle performance and can lead to paralysis.

Researchers are studying pregnant primates and sharing their data in real-time to examine how different strains of Zika behave in animal models.  Computer models and cell cultures cannot provide an accurate depiction of the virus in living tissue and thusly animal models are engaged to ensure human safety.  As researcher Dr. Koen Van Rompay notes in the piece, "When we study how the virus affects monkeys, it's very predictive of how it affects people and that information enables us to develop vaccines to fight it."

Please click here to read the piece in Newsweek and learn more about primates in Zika research.  Feel free to share your thoughts and concerns in the comments section at the bottom of the article.  As we have noted before, it is important to share your pro-research perspective.  Please also feel free to share the article with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media.

NABR Presents Annual Analysis of Federal Animal Rights FOIA Requests

In its ongoing efforts to keep the animal research community informed, NABR presents its annual analysis of animal rights FOIA requests, "A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY15."  This is an in-depth report of every federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made during FY15 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by animal rights groups that you won’t find anywhere else.

NABR’s experts have broken these requests down in an easy-to-read format to help you quickly understand the most commonly requested information, frequency of requests by party, and the cost to taxpayers. Of particular note, the number of requests for information about institutions submitted to NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare have increased dramatically.

While this report focuses specifically on the federal FOIA, we also encourage you to review where your state stands with respect to state-level open records laws at NABR's "FOIA in Your State." (log-in required)

As animal rights groups continue to rely on FOIA to gather intelligence about research projects, it is important to understand the impact of such requests.  Download "A Review of Animal Rights FOIA Requests FY15" today by clicking below, and share it with your staff and counsel.

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One of the ‘AETA 4’ Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

Joseph Buddenberg has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for a cross-country fur-industry vandalism and mink-liberation campaign.  Buddendberg was previously known as one of the “AETA 4,” after he faced charges in California for alleged illegal activity against researchers in 2008.  That charge, the first under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), was dismissed in 2010 for lack of indictment documentation. At his sentencing last week, Buddenberg also was ordered by the federal court to pay restitution of $398,272. He pleaded guilty in February to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA),  A codefendant, Nicole Kissane, pleaded guilty to the same charge and is due to be sentenced in June. She will share in payment of the restitution ordered.

The two were arrested in July 2014, charged with participating in a concerted campaign against the fur industry in the summer and fall of 2013 that totaled some 40,000 miles in covert travel before it was over. The pair’s months-long crime spree in at least 5 states is outlined in this Los Angeles Times article.  A Newsweek article, Animal Activists Are Shouting out Their Crimes Online, gives more background on Buddenberg and Kissane, as well as other extremists boasting about their actions anonymously.

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