BIO CEO Pens Op-Ed Lauding the Results of Translational Animal Research

Jim Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and board member of the National Audubon Society, has written an enlightening submission to the Capitol Hill news site, The Hill, which highlights the connections humans have with animals.  It is already known that fostering relationships with animals has been scientifically shown to be beneficial for one’s mental health. Now, as Greenwood explains, the relationship goes even deeper.

Animal research has been shown to greatly improve the lives of both humans and animals.  To put this fact in perspective, sixty percent of all human diseases can be spread by animals, and livestock are particularly at risk.  To mediate this problem, scientists have carefully modified the genomes of livestock to make them less susceptible to spreading disease.  One example provided by Greenwood are chickens.  These ubiquitous birds have been modified to prevent the transmission of bird flu to other chickens, which then decreases the threat of a bird flu epidemic in humans.  In addition, other researchers have found ways to combat other deadly diseases, like Ebola and the Zika virus, by using animal models such as cows and mosquitos.

Greenwood goes on to note that animal studies are “key to discovering, developing and manufacturing new treatments for human diseases. Animal models of human diseases have helped scientists understand how and why a particular disease develops and what can be done to halt or reverse the process.”

Research performed with animals has saved the lives of many people and with continued use of animal research, scientists can save the lives of millions more. As Greenwood states, “Today, many people with once-fatal diseases are alive and healthy thanks to scientific breakthroughs made possible by studying animals. Tomorrow, thanks to ongoing advances in animal biotechnology, we can envision an even more hopeful and humane future for our planet, its people and our animal friends.”

To read Greenwood’s op-ed, please click here.

Are Primates Still Important for Medical Progress? The Answer: Yes

Opponents to animal research always ask, “Is research with primates still needed?”  According to Dr. Andrew Jackson of Britain’s Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience in a recent BBC Science & Environment article, primates are still vital for medical research, especially for studies with the brain.

Dr. Jackson has been recently researching the relationship between motion and the brain with rhesus macaque monkeys and a specially designed videogame. The monkeys play the game and when they win, they receive fruit as a reward. All the while, Dr. Jackson studies the monitors to see how neurons react to create the primates’ movement.  He explains that this research could help find ways to restore mobility to people who have suffering from paralysis.  Why a monkey? The research is performed with monkeys, rather than mice because the physiology of a monkey’s brain is much more similar to that of a human.  In addition, mice do not manipulate objects with their front paws like monkeys and people do with their hands.

In the article, an international animal rights group claims that primate research is unnecessary because of the existence of brain neural imaging and computer models, whose data is based of off previous animal studies. As the article notes, soon after publishing arguments in opposition to Dr. Jackson’s study, over six hundred scientists who are actively involved in animal research signed an open letter rejecting those claims.
Those scientists explain that nonhuman primates are very important for medical development and great lengths are taken to ensure their safety and comfort.  Labs come with elaborate enclosures, social groups, and more secluded areas to allow primates to have some time to themselves.  Dr. Jackson concurs that the wellbeing of the animals is very important for the experiments noting that stressed or uncomfortable animals can skew data and make it impossible to perform research.

To read the article, please click here. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of primates in research, please see the resources located on NABR’s website.

The World’s Five Deadliest Diseases and the Animals Helping to Fight Them

The critical need for animals in research has been well-established, but do you know its impact on the world’s deadliest diseases? In the on-going effort to emphasize the benefits of animal studies in treating the world’s five deadliest diseases, NABR has released a brief, easy to digest review of animals in the research to cure coronary artery disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), and lung cancer.  Shockingly, 22 million people per year, or 40% of all deaths in the world, occur because of these five diseases.  While these numbers can make the future look bleak, there is hope.

Many animals such as dogs, rabbits, mice, cats, and even ferrets and guinea pigs have contributed to incredible medical breakthroughs which have saved countless lives from these afflictions, and continue to help search for cures every day.  However, it is not just human lives that these animals are saving, animals have also greatly benefited from the research as well.

Dogs were instrumental in developing coronary artery bypass surgery and Taylor, a Doberman-German shepherd mix, was the first to receive open heart surgery to fix a rare congenital defect.  Now even more pets are undergoing the surgery to greatly improve their health and extend their lives.

With animal research breakthroughs, medical treatments are being developed right now to help save the lives of both people and animals, just like Taylor, who are struggling with chronic, severe illness.

Click here to read more about the role animals have played in improving the lives of millions of people afflicted with the five deadliest diseases in the world. Feel free to share this resource with your friends, family, colleagues, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Mouse Models Help Researchers Prepare for the Future of Space Travel

As if it was a scene taken straight out of a movie, the United States aims to put a man on Mars in the next two decades.  Mars, at its closest point, is 33.9 million miles away, and animal research is showing that the long trip to the Red Planet could have health implications for astronauts and space travelers.

Using mouse models, researchers have found that exposure to cosmic rays, which are abundant in space, could lead to something dubbed “space brain.”  Mice exposed to energetic, charged particles, similar to cosmic rays, developed conditions leading to mental impairment and dementia. They also showed decreased levels of “fear extinction,” the way in which the brain stifles traumatic associations. These decreased levels could make one more prone to anxiety which could become problematic on the three year trip to Mars.

Without the use of animal models, it would become almost impossible to test the effects of space travel on astronauts’ bodies. Author of the study and professor of radiation oncology at the University of California, Charles Limoli, explains, “Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel – such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression, and impaired decision-making.”  An astronaut’s job in space is so complicated that any decrease in performance can spell disaster for a whole mission.

Thankfully, with the use of animal models, it becomes easier to study the rigors of space travel.  While the results from these studies are only an approximation to the effects of space on humans, it is a vital first step towards further exploration of outer space and ensuring the safety of our intrepid astronauts.

To read about this study, please click here.

Sign-Up Today for NABR’s Rescheduled Webinar

Due to a major a Internet service outage in Washington, DC on Tuesday, NABR was forced to cancel Tuesday's previously scheduled webinar, Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy ProcessWe sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. The webinar has now been rescheduled for Thursday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. If you registered for the webinar before you must register again to attend. 

If you want to improve compliance while also fostering animal care, here's how you can help...

On Thursday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. join Dr. Taylor Bennett, NABR's Senior Science Advisor, and Mike Dingell, NABR's Director of Public Policy, for NABR's next exclusive webinar, Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy ProcessThis webinar will share an insider's perspective into Washington that highlights important aspects of policy-making by using recent legislative initiatives and Federal Register notices to demonstrate the importance of participation. This valuable presentation will provide participants with the necessary information to become an active participant in the regulatory and legislative processes and provide guidance about how to help shape the environment in which NABR members work. NABR staff will also cover the results of the Election and discuss what impact it may have on the lab animal community.

NABR is the only national, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to advocating for sound public policy that recognizes the vital role animals play in biomedical research. But we can't do it alone. We need your help! NABR members play a unique and irreplaceable role in public policy process, especially when Congress considers legislation impacting biomedical research and when federal agencies propose new regulations. This webinar will give you the valuable tools and knowledge to assist NABR's efforts in the coming years.

As always, space is limited for NABR's webinars so please be sure to register ASAP to guarantee your spot for Help Us Help You: Participating in Public Policy Process. Please click here to reserve your spot.

Are Mice the Key to Unlocking a Vaccine Against Breast Cancer?

Scientists may have found a new way to protect high-risk individuals from developing breast cancer, a disease that will impact about 1 in 8 women in her lifetime.  According to recent news coverage, researchers from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and from the Medical University of Vienna have successfully tested a vaccine with artificial HER2 antigens.  HER2 proteins cause breast cancer tumors to grow and it is present at above normal levels in about 30% of breast tumors. Thanks to research with mice this new vaccine could be on its way to patients to prevent breast cancer.

The immune system does not attack mutated cancer cells.  However, artificial tumor antigens, otherwise known as mimotopes, can stimulate an immune response. Unfortunately, these mimotopes need to have a carrier to be effective and with past carriers the mimotopes have changed their structure, decreasing their effectiveness in the body.

Researchers have found the vaccine is much more effective if the HER2 mimotopes are paired with particles of a virus.  The viral particles are too small to cause disease but are enough to cause an aggressive immune response.  This immune response is associated with the mimotopes and the body then begins to attack breast cancer cells.  In mouse models, those vaccinated with the antigen were shielded at significant levels from growing tumors; while the control group developed the cancer.

This potential vaccine could protect people and those who have had breast cancer in the past.  And, in a surprising twist, it can also be used in man’s best friend.  The HER2 protein performs similar functions in human and canine breast cancer.  The research team found that the protein corresponds about 90% between dogs and people.

To read more about this new discovery, please click here.

Ambitious Research of Retina Regeneration Being Developed with Zebrafish

Diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal degeneration used to spell the end of sight for those afflicted.  The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI) has granted $1.9 million to Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to fund retina regeneration research to help patients with those conditions. As expected, animal research is going to play an important role in those studies.

Part of the Audacious Goals Initiative developed by NEI to push the envelope to tackle some of the most difficult eye diseases through regenerative medicine, the idea is to use stem cells to replace damaged retinal tissue and restore sight. Ed Levine, Ph.D., one of the head researchers, is very optimistic about the potential of this research.  “This is very early work,” he explains, “but we already have hints that it is possible because many fish species have the capacity to regenerate cells.”  Levine has teamed up with James Patton, Ph.D., who has researched the retinal regeneration capacities of zebrafish.  The goal is to understand how zebrafish can regenerate their cells and attempt to recreate that regeneration in mouse models.  The hope is that from mice, the therapies could eventually be applied to humans.

This research is just another example of how animal models can be used to better the lives of individuals with terminal, debilitating diseases. To read more about this exciting study, please click here.

AETA Appeal Reportedly ‘Flounders’ in 7th Circuit

Based on the “critical” questions and statements of a three-judge panel at a September 21 hearing, Court House News reported the appeal of Kevin Johnson’s conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) “flounders.”  Johnson received a three-year prison sentence for attacking a mink farm near Chicago in 2013 (U.S. v. Johnson).  At the hearing, Rachel Meeropol of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CRR) argued on appeal that such prosecution was unlawful because the AETA was unconstitutional. This argument against the AETA has been made repeatedly by animal rights attorneys. Four courts, including  two federal Courts of Appeal, have found the law constitutional.   The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to review the issues in Blum v. Holder.

U.S. Circuit Judge Ann Williams noted she had "a big problem" with the argument. "The definition of animal enterprise is very clear under the statute, and traveling interstate to free 2,000 minks is the kind of crime this statute envisions," Williams added.  After Meeropol claimed the statute was overbroad and might cover throwing a stone through a Whole Foods window or the financial losses allegedly caused by the film “Blackfish”, Judge Williams remained unconvinced.  "The statute specifically says that it doesn't cover expressive activity protected by the First Amendment or lawful economic disruption," the judge said. The other two federal district court judges on the panel also made comments critical of the appeal. When Meeropol attempted to reiterate her arguments, Court House News said the court “seemed too disinterested to question her further and certainly disinclined to invalidate the statute.”

Election Day is Fast Approaching!

One of the most important political events is rapidly approaching! Election Day is a little over a month away. On Tuesday, November 8 Americans across the country will go to the polls to cast their ballots for President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Governor, as well as a number of state and local offices.

Every vote counts! If you’re not yet registered to vote, please do so. You can find out more about voting in your state by clicking here.  Check out Google’s How to Vote to learn more about voting in your area.

FBR President Outlines the Case for Animals in Medical Research in the Chicago Tribune

Frankie Trull, President of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR), has recently written an engaging op-ed in the Chicago Tribune about the many benefits of using animals for medical research.

In her piece, Trull emphasizes the importance of utilizing non-human primates (NHP) which, while only comprising of less than one percent of the total research performed with animals, accounts for a sizeable impact on medical discovery.  To back up this fact, the article references great strides in medical research, such as the vaccines for polio, mumps, measles, and hepatitis B, which owe their successes to NHP research.  Yet with all of this evidence of the benefits of animal research, some critics posit that computer models are better suited for experiments than animals.  Trull refutes this claim quickly with her example of a recent endeavor to model human brain activity with a computer.  She writes, “In 2014, researchers in Japan attempted to simulate brain activity by using a supercomputer with over 700,000 processor cores.  It took the computers 40 minutes of whirring to effectively replicate what the brain does in one second.” Neurological research would take much longer and may inhibit the development of lifesaving treatments with the use of a computer model alone.  In addition, without animal models, particularly primates, researchers would have to test potentially unsafe medicines on humans, which is highly unethical and illegal.

Though in spite of the perceived controversy surrounding it, non-human primates remain a vital part of biomedical research. To read the op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, please click here, and please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

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