Dog Study Shows Promise for Curing Late-Stage Eye Disease

According to an article posted on, a significant new study with canines successfully preserved the vision of dogs suffering with naturally occurring, late-stage retinitis pigmentosa.  The article, “Animal study shows benefit from gene therapy in late-stage eye disease,” notes that until now, studies had shown promise of gene therapy but only if used in early stages of the disease.

This taxpayer-funded research, funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI) showed improved retinal cells and prevented vision loss for two years in dogs.  This is an important advancement as NEI scientists expect human trials to being in a few years.  Retinitis pigmentosa is the most common inherited disease causing degeneration of the retina with approximately 1 in 4,000 peopled impacted by the mutation of the RPGR (retinitis pigmentosa GTPase regulator) gene.

To learn more about this discovery, please read the article by clicking here.

Our Four-Legged Companions Are Helping Lick Cancer

Another publication has written about the importance of canine models in cancer research.  In the current issue of the ASBMB Today, the newsletter for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology featured a story titled, “Chasing cancer with dogs” focusing on the connection between dogs, humans, and cancer and the exploration for a cure.

Cancer is rampant among humans and dogs.  Cancer occurs in one in every three women and in half of all men.  According to Michael Kastan, the Executive Director of the Duke Cancer Institute, it kills half of all dogs under the age of 10.  Because cancer is naturally occurring in dogs, studying canines with cancer may help answer questions that remain unanswered from studies in humans and rodents.  Humans and dogs share many similarities with the disease, such as tumor genetics, recurrence, metastasis and therapeutic response.

Please click here to read and discuss the story and to learn more about the animal research involved in curing cancer.

Animal Research Plays Key Role in 2015 Nobel Prize Awards

Today, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three researchers for their efforts to conquer parasitic disease: William Campbell of Ireland, Satoshi Omura of Japan, and China's Youyou Tu.

Campbell and Omura discovered and developed Avermectin, a new drug which has helped reduce the incidence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, also known as elephantiasis.  When discussing their work, the Nobel Assembly noted, "The importance of Ivermectin (the American derivative of Avermectin) for improving the health and wellbeing of millions of individuals with River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, primarily in the poorest regions of the world, is immeasurable. Treatment is so successful that these diseases are on the verge of eradication."  Animal research with cattle, sheep, dogs, and chickens played an important role in this discovery.

As most already know, Malaria is mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites and it kills almost 500,000 people worldwide every year.  Using the Artemisia annua plant and mouse models, Tu discovered that purification of the plant yielded an agent called Artemisinin which the Nobel Assembly calls “a new class of antimalarial agents that rapidly kill the Malaria parasites at an early stage of their development.”

NABR congratulates this year’s Nobel Laureates and applauds them for their important research that will improve the lives of millions globally.

To learn more about these Nobel Laureates and the animal research in their groundbreaking developments, please read CNN’s report or click here to read Speaking of Research’s analysis.

Scientists Learn More about Human Cancers from Dogs

Researchers have successfully defined molecular subtypes of lymphoma from three separate dog breeds by comparing them to their human counterparts.  Lymphoma, a group of blood cancers that develop in the lymphatic system, is the most common cancer in dogs and develops in over 550,000 humans a year.

A paper on the research was published by Ingegerd Elvers, et al. in Genome Research on September 16, 2015 and clearly illustrates the importance of translational research benefiting both global human and animal health.  Senior author Dr. Jessica Alfoldi of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard notes, “Working with the tumor DNA of golden retrievers, cocker spaniels and boxers, we have identified genes with known involvement in human lymphoma and other cancers as well as novel genes that could help in the discovery of much-needed new treatment options for cancer.”

Dogs are becoming increasingly invaluable in cancer studies to understand the similarities of the disease in both human and dogs.  Hopefully, the findings from these studies will yield results that can be applied to novel approaches to treat and cure cancer. To read the publication in Genome Research, please click here.

UK Research Facility Explains Why Dogs Are Needed

Harlan recently opened the doors of its research dog breeding facility in Cambridge, England to The Sun, a major UK newspaper. The result was a balanced article describing the excellent facilities and reasons dogs are needed for research purposes. The article included many photos, a listing of drugs whose development depended, in part, on the use of dogs, and public opinions. Yes, research opponents are quoted, but so are medical researchers. A pharmacology professor states, “I’ve been in medical research for 30 years. I recently worked on a new drug for the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As part of the process of making sure it’s safe for man we commissioned experiments on dogs. You can’t just take people off the street and give them the drug straight away. This process is for the safety of the public. We don’t do these experiments on animals because we want to. [Government regulatory requirements for safety testing are mentioned elsewhere.] A lot of people, including me, spend their lives looking for alternatives to animals, but a single cell is not the same as a whole organism.”

Harlan’s communications director, Andrew Gay, is quoted extensively. He says, “The beagles’ role is vital in developing important new drugs for serious illnesses in humans — including high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes and also cancer.” Gay concluded, “These are working dogs. It’s an honorable thing for a dog to do and for us to ask a dog to do. The people who work here love dogs and while they are with us we want to make sure they have the best care possible. They are doing a great service for us.

Read the full article here.

Dogs on the Hunt for Cancer Cure in Humans

Earlier this week, Chemical & Engineering News featured a wonderful look into the important role that animal research, specifically that with canine models, play in improving human and veterinary help.  The article, “Could Fido Fetch a Cure?” takes a close look at dogs with cancer and the valuable insight they are providing to help cure the disease.

After receiving the diagnosis that Moses, a six-year-old black Labrador retriever, had lymphoma, he was enrolled by his family in a clinical trial at the University of Missouri where he would be treated with new class of chemotherapy drugs.  These new agents, called indenoisoquinolines, were developed through a collaboration between the United States’ top veterinary schools and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium (COTC).  The article notes, “running clinical trials on dogs with cancer is a win-win. Trials may save the lives of beloved family pets, while the data collected can be used to inform drug development for human patients.”  Thanks to their efforts, Moses is doing well.

Cancer is not exclusively a human problem and our four-legged friends are helping researchers improve therapy.  To learn more about this effort, please read “Could Fido Catch a Cure?” by clicking here.

Man’s Best Friend Helping Research for Kids with Spina Bifida

About four children are born every day in the United States with spina bifida, a birth defect where the baby’s backbone and its surrounding membranes fail to develop properly.  Thanks to animal research and the efforts of researchers at the University of California Davis and the University of Iowa, science has learned one more clue about the cause of spina bifida.

Through the use of dogs, specifically Weimaraners, these researchers identified the gene they believe is a risk factor for spina bifida.  The gene was identified in four Weimaraners with spinal dysraphism, a disorder causing impairment of motor skills and partial paralysis of the legs.  This gene could not be located in other dog breeds but a similar mutation was found in 149 people with spina bifida.

In the online journal PLOS Genetics, the researchers noted about the study, “Dogs are excellent biomedical models for humans since they receive comparable medical care, share our home environment and develop naturally occurring diseases comparable to those in humans.”

To read more about this step forward in spina bifida research, please click here.

Setting the Record Straight on Animal Research

In a story published today on The Conversation website, Lauren Emily Wright focuses on animal research, its value, and how best to ensure that animal care and scientific discovery can continue to blossom.

Wright’s article, “Animal research: varying standards are leading to bad science,” makes very good points in her discussion on the importance of animal care and the direct connection to accurate scientific results.  She goes on to note that good training and reasonable scientific policy is the best approach for research going forward.

To read, “Animal research: varying standards are leading to bad science,” please click here.

Dogs Helping in Development of Cataract Treatment

According to an article published by Science on July 22, a team of researchers and ophthalmologists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are working to tackle cataracts, a condition effecting humans and dogs, with the assistance of man’s best friend.

These researchers have been able to develop eye drops that have shown potential in rabbits and dogs, specifically black Labs, Queensland Heelers, and Miniature Pinschers.  The results have been nothing short of remarkable.  According to the article, “Eye drops could dissolve cataracts,” researchers could tell just by looking into the dogs eyes that the cataracts had decreased.

These developments are especially exciting considering that the only current treatment for cataracts, which effects tens of millions of people across the globe and approximately 17.2% of Americans over 40, is surgery.

To learn more about this discovery and to read the article, please click here.

Speaking of Research Stands-Up for Dog Research in the U.K.

Last week, in response to public outcry against the opening of a research beagle breeding facility in the U.K., Tom Holder penned a detailed analysis of the importance these models play in biomedical research in The Huffington Post.

Holder, the Director of Speaking of Research, highlights the discovery of insulin and the development of the rabies vaccine along with current achievements in perfecting artery to vein blood transfusions and a novel stem cell transplant treatment that allowed 23 pet dogs with paralyzing spinal injuries to regain some use of their rear legs.

He goes on to note that 20% of the dogs used in U.K. research are imported because U.K. breeding facilities cannot provide all of the dogs used.  Holder writes, “These dogs have to endure long and potentially stressful flights from other countries. Surely it is better to breed them here in the UK, where we have some of the highest standards of laboratory animal welfare in the world and where our facilities can be easily monitored by the Animals in Science Regulation Unit inspectors? The new breeding facility offers animal welfare standards above and beyond those demanded by the Government.”

To read Holder’s posting, “Why People Are Wrong to Oppose the New Beagle Breeding Facility,” and to view some informative videos, please click here.

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