Share Your Story!

Do you have an interesting or uplifting story about how animal research and testing has positively impacted your life?  If you do, the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) wants to hear about it!

Next month FBR is hosting a “Share Your Story” series featuring guest bloggers discussing the positive difference that animal models have made in their lives, the lives of loved ones, or those of their animal companions.  FBR is looking for all kinds of stories from people of all walks of life.  Do you take one of the Top 25 Most Prescribed Drugs that was developed with animals?  Are you able to spend more time with your pet thanks to veterinary medicine?  Is a parent or child alive today because of the animals involved in cancer treatments?  If you’re interested in learning more, please contact FBR at info@fbresearch.org or call (202) 457-0654.

Telling your story will help FBR communicate the vital importance that animal models still play in biomedical research and testing.  Don’t be shy, share your story!

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.

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.

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.

European Commission Announces Infringement Procedure against Italy’s Restrictive Animal Research Law

The European Commission (EC) opened an infringement procedure against Italy on April 28 over the country’s restrictions on animal research. The action was prompted after research institutes there complained new Italian animal research regulations put them at a disadvantage compared to researchers in other Member States where there are fewer restrictions. The Italian government has two months to respond to the EC complaint. In order to resolve the infringement procedure, Italy must ensure that its laws abide by the requirements set out in the European Directive (2010/63).

You may recall that Italy passed a law in 2014 banning the breeding of cats, dogs and non-human primates for research purposes, or conducting even minimally invasive experiments that do not require sedation or pain-killers. The law also bans work in xenotransplantation and studies of drugs of abuse.  These restrictions pose serious problems for biomedical research in Italy and make it impossible for Italian science to compete with the other European member states.

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) reports the Commission has sent a letter of formal notice to the Italian government, as the first step in the infringement procedure. Earlier this year, EARA’s partner organization Research4Life asked the European Commission on behalf of 37 public and private Italian research institutions for the law to be reassessed. The Commission has informed Italy that its animal research law, legislative decree 26/2014, places “excessive restrictions” on the use of animals for scientific purposes and makes it impossible for Italian science to compete with other European member states.

Newsweek Profiles Convicted Animal Rights Extremists

On March 23, Newsweek published a report about the conviction under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) of Kevin Johnson (a.k.a. Olliff) and Tyler Lang, “Mink on the Run: Animal 'Terrorists' Smacked by Federal Prosecutors.”

The article outlines the events leading to the arrest and prosecution of Johnson and Lang, including the release of 2,000 mink and the aftermath of their attack.  Not only were dozens of the released mink killed by roadway traffic, but the victims were forced to close their business and lost their retirement savings.  Unfortunately, the article does not include a statement from victims about the destruction of their business and minimizes the nature of the crimes committed by the pair, their criminal histories, and the evidence presented against them.

You will recall that Judge St. Eve sentenced Lang to three months time already served, six months of house arrest, six months community confinement and one year of supervised release. He is also required to make a $200,000 restitution payment to the farm operators.  "This is a very serious offense that caused a substantial loss to the victim. It wiped out their business and life savings," St. Eve said at Lang's sentencing hearing, reported the Chicago Tribune. "You destroyed their feelings of security and their trust of others, in addition to their business. Johnson received a three-year prison sentence and was ordered to make a $200,000 restitution payment.

To read the Newsweek article, please click here.

Science Coalition Answers ‘Wasteful’ Research Allegations

The Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) sponsored a Congressional exhibit and reception April 13, “’Wasteful’ Research? Looking Beyond the Abstract”.  Its purpose was to  provide researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), whose work had been targeted in various Congressional “wastebook” publications, an opportunity to put their research into context for Members of Congress and their staff. The unique Congressional exhibition and reception featured nine researchers from across the disciplinary spectrum.

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), author of a Congressional wastebook, attended the event. “This has been enlightening, and we want to make sure we are accurate,” the Senator told the Huffington Post. “It is a learning process.”

The event was co-hosted by the Consortium of Social Science Organizations (COSSA), the American Psychological Association (APA) and Elsevier. Additional organizational sponsors included the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), American Educational Research Association, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLGU), the Coalition for Life Sciences (CLS), Population Association of America, and the Society for Research in Child Development.  Additional organizational supporters can be found on last page of reception program.

Nature Addresses Role of China in Primate Research

The April 21 issue of Nature features the in-depth article, Monkey Kingdom, reviewing how and why “China is positioning itself as a world leader in primate research.” Nature reporter David Cyranoski, states, “With China fast becoming a global center for primate research, some scientists fear that it could hasten the atrophy of such science in the West and lead to a near monopoly.”

The piece suggests the Chinese enthusiasm “stands in stark contrast to the climate in the West, where non-human primate research is increasingly stymied by a tangle of regulatory hurdles, financial constraints and bioethical opposition.”  "Monkeying Around," a Nature editorial in the same issue, discusses the political situation, particularly in Europe.  Researchers agree that primate research models have a major role to play in many fields, a point dramatically made during the Ebola crisis, when therapies based on monkey studies were successfully rushed into use.  Ongoing investigations of Zika virus could make the point again.   “Such research is not an all or nothing proposal,” according to Nature, “it is one that requires continuous debate over where the research is warranted.”  Since public opinion against primate research appears to be growing, “too many politicians in Europe are shunning the debate, taking the easy way out and withdrawing support.”

The editorial concludes with encouragement of research collaboration and attention to “abiding by principles that guide the international scientific community – that monkeys should be used only when necessary and in as small a number as possible.”

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.

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