Mousetronauts in Space: Learning More about Muscles

Last week, several white mice were launched into space and arrived onboard the International Space Station (ISS) with a very important mission.  The crew of twenty female rodents will be involved in physical testing to better understand muscle strength in microgravity.  This important study will help NASA reach new heights by providing them with the insight they need to care for astronauts in space and once they return to earth.  This won’t be the first contribution that mice have made to space travel, either.  A blog post by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took a closer look at animals in space.

Many different species have helped pave the way for space exploration.  Monkeys, dogs, mice, and rabbits have helped provide researchers with important information and data on everything from G-forces to microgravity.  Fruit flies were the first species launched into space in the 1940’s in order to learn about high-altitude radiation because of their well-understood genomes.  Mice, as FBR discusses, are excellent models to study because of their size, physiology and genetics, and brief lifespan that can simulate almost a decade in orbit.

Animals in space don’t just teach science about life beyond earth’s atmosphere.  Breakthroughs for people on earth in the fields of bone density loss and the immune system have come from space travel with animals.

To learn more about the impact of animal research and space studies, please take a moment to read FBR’s blog post by clicking here.

Dutch Parliament Passes Motion to Phase Out Non-Human Primate Research

Three weeks ago, the Dutch Parliament passed a motion supported by all parties asking the Government to investigate completely phasing out non-human primate research at the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) in Rijswijk and other research centers, as reported by the European Animal Research Association (EARA)The BPRC has been subject to consistent protests by animal rights activists, and had opened its doors to Vice News in 2015, resulting in a documentary, Inside the Monkey Lab.

In 2014, non-human primates accounted for less than 0.05% of animals used for scientific purposes in the Netherlands; yet non-human primate research plays an important role in developing medicines, combating infectious diseases and treating severe illnesses. Parliament has acknowledged this, and has asked the Government to ensure such research can still optimally take place, while phasing out non-human primate research as soon as possible under those circumstanc8es.

The current motion passed just months after the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the support of a fund to stimulate the development of animal-free alternative methods; the Dutch government has stated it wants to be a world leader in alternatives by 2025. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science will send a letter to Parliament in mid-May listing the members of an independent commission of inquiry and the planned time frame in which the investigation is to take place.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the UK (PETA UK) quickly declared victory online.

Here’s How We Prevent the Next Killer Virus

Dr. Claire Pomeroy, MD, MBA, president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, published an op-ed at CNBC in the wake of Ebola and Zika viruses pointing out the urgent need to better support medical research in order to respond effectively to new infectious diseases.

Dr. Pomeroy concludes, “Instead of shuttering labs and cutting back on promising research, we need to spend the money now and sustained into the future — proactively — to understand more about basic virology, immunology, and epidemiology; to develop vaccine platforms; and to translate those insights into development of new vaccines and therapies.”

To read Dr. Pomeroy's op-ed, please click here.

NCI Announces Blue Ribbon Panel for Cancer Moonshot

The National Cancer Institute (NCI)  announced on April 4 the Blue Ribbon Panel that will lead the Vice President’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The panel consists of scientific experts, cancer researchers, and patient advocates.  It serves as a working group of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), which will consider the Panel’s recommendations and advise the NCI director.

A final report by the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, will be produced and then forwarded to President Barack Obama by December 31, 2016.  Members of the research community and the public can engage in the initiative initially by subscribing to updates on the main website or by emailing the panel at cancerresearch@nih.gov.  In addition, an online forum for submitting scientific ideas and comments to the panel will be available on the site in the coming weeks.

NABR summarized last month the cancer research areas that depend on animal research.  Please take a look at our factsheet,  The Role of Animal Research in the Cancer Moonshot, for more information.

“President” Underwood Survives Thanks to Animal Research

The critically acclaimed Netflix original series, House of Cards, is one of the most popular and most talked about shows in recent memory.  The main character, President Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is one of America’s favorite villains.  His never ending arsenal of political schemes, subterfuge, and ruthless ambition has millions of viewers on the edge of their seats.  But did you know that animal research played an indespensible role in saving his life in one of the show's many plot twists?  It did, and the folks at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) took some time to examine the role of animal research in President Underwood’s lifesaving liver transplant.

Liver transplants are the second most common organ transplant.  Diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and autoimmune diseases can destroy the liver’s function, making a transplant a patient’s only hope for survival.  After years of careful animal research, immunosuppressive drugs developed in the 1980’s and 1990’s such as Cyclosporin A and Tacrolimus helped patients live longer after the transplant, giving recipients about a 60% chance of living for 15 years post-transplant.  Sadly, at one time patients rarely survived longer than a year after the transplant.  Rodents and other animal models are, right now in labs across the globe, involved in studies to improve these drugs and minimize their side effects.

Studies with rats and pigs are helping lengthen the viability time of donated organs.  They have yielded new and better ways to preserve organs awaiting transport and to preserve them for transplant.  Rats aided in the refinement of a process called supercooling, where organs are perfused with a concentrated sugar solution that prevents the formation of damaging ice crystals.  Pig livers have shown that infusing donor organs with warm blood leads to improved retention of liver function.  Both of these developments can extend storage time up to three days.  This additional time will help those on donor lists get the organs they need anywhere on the globe.

To learn more about these innovations, please click here.

Thanks to the animal research highlighted by FBR in their recent posting, we can hope to see more of President Underwood in future seasons on House of Cards.  Oh, and apologies for the spoiler!

Unintended Consequences for Maryland Research Animals

Veterinarian Shannon Stutler explains her opposition to a Maryland research animal adoption bill in a March 29 Baltimore Sun op-ed column, Unintended Consequences for Maryland Research Animals.

House Bill 594, the Humane Adoption of Companion Animals Used in Research Act of 2016, is now working its way through the Maryland Senate.  The bill passed the Assembly.  Dr. Stutler opposes the bill, calling it simply "feel good" legislation proposed by animal rights activists who seek the immediate end of all animal-based research.  It would impose on Maryland's research and teaching institutions onerous mandates that would do little to support animals and could have an unintended consequence: increasing the number of animals in Maryland's shelters that may be euthanized rather than adopted.  The adoption of post-study animals is already widely embraced by the research community. Many institutions already have customized, responsible and detailed adoption policies managed by veterinary specialists familiar with the special considerations and needs of retired research animals. For the sake of the animals, Dr. Stutler urges Maryland's legislators to reject this unnecessary legislation.

To read Dr. Stutler's op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, please click here.

Australian Senate Rejects Legislation Banning the Importation of Primates for Research

As you know, the transportation of lab animals for lifesaving and life-improving biomedical research is an important concern for the scientific community.  Animal rights activists opposing animal research have made it a target in their ongoing efforts to curtail medical progress for both humans and animals and these efforts have not been based solely focused on the United States.  Just last week, the Australian Senate decided not to pass legislation that would have prohibited the importation of nonhuman primates (NHP) for biomedical research.

This proposal was made late last year based on concerns that primates being imported into the country were wild-caught and that there was no need for importation given the fact that breeding colonies already existed in Australia.  The importation of wild-caught NHP’s is already prohibited in Australia.  A report by the Australian Senate even noted that passage of this legislation was the first step towards outlawing animal research in that country.  After hearing common-sense arguments from scientists in Australia and across the globe, legislators in Australia rejected the bill.

To read more about this important development, please read the report by the European Animal Research Association (EARA).  Please take a moment to visit NABR’s page on transportation, “No Cargo, No Cure,” to learn more about the transportation of animals for research.

Show Your Support for Biomedical Research!

Are you proud of your work to help improve global human and animal health?  Do you want to help support the efforts to protect scientific liberty and the ethical use of animal models in biomedical research?  Then look no further.

The folks at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) have BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH SAVES LIVES bumper stickers available for distribution.  If you missed out on these at last year’s AALAS Annual Meeting, here’s your chance to grab one.  These are a great way to highlight the importance of supporting lifesaving science with the general public.

Contact FBR today at info@fbresearch.org to learn how you can get a bumper sticker.

What Animal Research Means to March Madness

March Madness is in full swing.  The brackets are filled out.  Some are busted.  The upsets are happening.  The powerhouses are surging towards the Final Four.  But did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, animal research is playing a role?  It definitely does and got the folks at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) thinking.

In a blog post published today, FBR took a close look at the world of animal models in competitive sports.  In one interesting example, horses and macaques, for example, were instrumental in the development of microfracture surgery.  This surgical procedure corrects torn cartilage in the knee by smoothing the edges of the tear and creating tiny fractures in the underlying bone, releasing stem cells from the bone marrow.  By creating a “superclot,” cartilage-building cells are released.  Arthroscopic surgery and repairs of ligament tears also owe a debt to animal research.

If you have a moment in between games or during halftime, take a few minutes to scout out FBR’s latest blog post, “What Animal Research Means for March Madness.”  You can read the posting here.

FBR Releases Final Segment in Three Part Series on Animal Research and Diabetes

Yesterday, the team at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) released the third and final part of its three segment series covering the involvement of animal models in diabetes research.  Part three of the series covers how biomedical research in veterinary health, the development of implantable devices for people living with diabetes, and the identification of a new type of diabetes thanks to the assistance of animal models.

Thanks to many years of animal research, species of all kinds are benefitting from the research.  Insulin, for example, was discovered with the assistance of canine models and because of gene therapy, Type 1 diabetes in dogs has been cured.  But it does not stop there.  Scientists have been working on new ways for the 29 million Americans with diabetes to manage their care, including the development of implantable devices to help monitor blood sugar, replace insulin injections, and in some cases even place insulin-producing cells under the skin.  Such groundbreaking breakthroughs would not be possible without the contribution of dogs, cats, and pigs.

To read more about these and other exciting developments in diabetes research, please click here.

If you have not done so already, please take a moment to read NABR’s coverage of part one and part two of FBR’s series.

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