Lupus: How Animal Research and Testing Saved Her Life

We’ve all heard it many times before: research and the knowledge gained from animal models has saved countless lives. Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) we get to hear one particular story from someone involved in biomedical research.

In the first segment of FBR’s “Share Your Story” series, Jordana Lenon, the public information and outreach specialist for both the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shares her experience with lupus. When months of troubling yet unexplained symptoms became severe enough to land her in the hospital, the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus soon followed.

Animal research – in part with rhesus macaque monkeys at her own workplace – saved her life in 2011. The once fatal auto-immune disease can be crippling to its victims and destroy cells, tissue, and organs in the body. Jordana describes how a drug she takes to control the disease, Mycophenolate mofetil, or MMF, a mainstay immunosuppressant was developed using mice, rats, dogs, and monkeys in the 1990’s. Today, lupus is primarily studied in mice, some rats, and rhesus monkeys. Veterinary research with dogs is also important as they suffer from arthritis and lupus, as well. Thanks to data gained from these models, Jordana now lives what she describes as a fairly normal life.

Please take a moment to read Jordana’s story. If you’d like to share how animal research and testing has positively impacted your life, please contact FBR at info@fbresearch.org or call (202) 457-0654.

Take a Look into Zika Research in a Primate Lab

Because of the nature of their work and the threats to their security from terrorists and animal rights extremists, many labs around the world conducting important animal research are very cautious about allowing outsiders inside for a visit. Until now. The reporters at STAT have just provided the public an insider’s view of work being conducted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the race to defeat one of the world’s most fearful viruses: Zika.

Yesterday’s report highlights the urgent speed at which researchers, with primates, are rushing to find a vaccine for the Zika virus. Time is of the essence and these critical protocols are being fast-tracked to learn everything there is to know about Zika. Readers are introduced to the safety precautions, enrichment stimulants, and a first-hand description of the procedures involved in these protocols. If you’ve ever wanted to step into a primate lab, yesterday’s article in STAT will give you a very well detailed and explained experience.

Please take a moment to read yesterday’s article about this very important research and please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

Researchers Hope Studies with Monkeys Yield Vaccines for HIV, Other Viruses

The mythical opening of Pandora’s box resulted in the release of diseases, many of which science has conquered and found new and innovative treatments to manage them.  Once of great concern, Polio, Measles, Typhoid fever, and Yellow fever, are now no longer worrisome due in part to medical achievements with nonhuman primates (NHP).  But a great deal of work remains and researchers at NABR’s 380 institutional members continue to strive to find a vaccines to eradicate HIV and other infectious diseases.

Highlighting this research was a posting by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) explaining the irreplaceable role that monkeys play in scientific discovery.  They alone mirror the biological process of infections in humans because of their similar genetic make-up.  Being 98% genetically similar to humans makes them uniquely suited for these critical studies.  While there is currently no cure for HIV, the virus can be managed by a “drug cocktail” of antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines.  This is certainly something to be proud of but researchers haven’t quit the hunt for a vaccine to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.  In fact, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) will be taking an exciting HIV vaccine, developed and tested with NHP’s, to clinical trials in humans soon.

Please take a moment to read FBR’s posting and to share your thoughts in the comment section.  Also, please share this report with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media to help communicate the vital importance that animal models still play in biomedical research and testing.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Thanks to Primates, OHSU Researchers Are One Step Closer to Killing HIV in Newborns

There is exciting and promising news coming out of Oregon Health & Science University.  According to a KGW.com report, researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center have discovered that a genetically engineered antibody can hunt and kill HIV.

Genetically engineered antibodies were administered 24 hours after primates were infected with the HIV virus.  The findings were amazing.  “This is really a complete, 100-percent cure basically,” said Dr. Nancy Haigwood, Director of the Primate Research Center.  By the end of the study, six months later, the primates showed no infection.  Each year, 200,000 children are born to mothers with HIV and this new development, hopefully, will help prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

To read the news story on this development and to see Dr. Haigwood’s interview, please click here.

Latest Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) Chimpanzee Lawsuit Rejected

A New York judge on Friday, January 29 blocked an animal rights group from pursuing a new lawsuit seeking release of a chimpanzee from a Niagara Falls sanctuary, despite support from primatologist Jane Goodall.

State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe refused to sign an order sought by Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to force facility directors into her Manhattan courtroom to defend keeping the animal in captivity. Judge Jaffe is the same jurist who granted a hearing requiring Stony Brook University to “show cause” for maintaining two research chimpanzees. Following that hearing, the court denied NhRP’s petition for a writ of habeaus corpus and Stony Brook subsequently returned the two chimpanzees to their owner, the New Iberia Primate Research Center in Louisiana.

According to the UK Telegraph, Judge Jaffe said the group previously filed four similar petitions in other federal courts in the state and, despite the new affidavits from Goodall and others, did not show why its latest request to release the Niagara Falls chimpanzee belonged in Manhattan. Copies of NhRP documents related to this case, including new supporting affidavits, are available here.

#ThrowbackThursday Video: “Hope”

Throwback Thursday is a social media phenomenon where users share items from the past.  A couple of weeks ago for Throwback Thursday, NABR shared a 1984 educational film by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) created to show the public the critical importance of animal research in discovering new medicines, treatments, and surgical techniques to better improve global human and animal health.  We dug into the archives to share another FBR video vignette, “Hope.”

Hope,” also produced by FBR, is narrated by Dr. Judson Randolph who discusses a number of lifesaving and life-improving developments in pediatric medicine and their implementation at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.  Dr. Judson speaks of the value of sheep in the creation of ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and its crucial use in saving a young girl’s life.  Research with primates, mice, dogs, and pigs were also important models in the development of bone marrow transplants to cure a young boy with leukemia.

To watch “Hope,” please click here or view the video below.  Also, please share this video with your family, friends, colleagues, and on social media.

 

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