May 29th 2023


EARA News Digest 2023 - Week 22

Welcome to your Monday morning update, from EARA, on the latest news in biomedical science, policy and openness on animal research. 

Threat to all biomedical research in EU phase-out petition 

EARA has expressed its deep concern, at the implications for public health and biomedical research, of calls by animal groups for an EU roadmap to phase out all animal research.
Last week the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) held a hearing for the petitioners of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), Save cruelty-free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing, to present their demands.
After setting out their arguments about replacing animal testing for risk and safety assessment of hazardous ingredients used in cosmetics and other chemicals, the petitioners, from PETA and Cruelty Free Europe, moved on to a call for a roadmap to be devised, by the end of 2024, to end the use of animals in all EU biomedical research.
While no life science representatives were invited to speak at the hearing, EARA has responded with a public statement on behalf of the biomedical research sector.
EARA said that the petitioners had completely overlooked the contribution of animal testing to the rapid development of every Covid-19 vaccine: “Unfortunately, the ECI call for a phase-out plan by the end of 2024 is not based on scientific evidence, but on emotion.
“The development of new drugs and surgical techniques will be dramatically impeded without continued animal research, with basic and fundamental research potentially coming to a complete stop. 
“The ECI exaggerates the current existence of viable alternatives to animal models, and by conscious omission diminishes the role of animals in scientific research.”
Further statements condemning the rush to animal research phase-out have come from the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany; a French/Dutch joint statement by AVIESAN and ZonMw; Biomedical Alliance in EuropeEU-Life and LERUEuropean Brain Council and the German Cancer Research Center.



EARA feature – Animals use in cancer studies

EARA has published a new feature article looking at the use of animals in cancer research, and the breakthroughs in understanding and treating cancer this has led to.

The article looks at how the discovery, in rat tumours, of the HER2 protein, and subsequent research and tests in mice, hamsters and monkeys led to the development of the major breast cancer drug, Herceptin – improving survival rates for patients by over a third.

Other aspects that are examined are how the animals are used from basic research to genetic modification, looking at case studies from around the world, as well as the different types of cancers that involve animal studies.

The article also explores how cancer research in animals can benefit the animals themselves – by helping to find treatments for a range of cancers that they are also susceptible to.



‘Striking’ effect of gel to treat brain tumours in mice

A gel, that can kill hard-to-reach cancer cells, has successfully cured mice of an aggressive type of brain tumour, giving hope it could be used to treat patients.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, USA, developed the gel by combining a cancer drug with an antibody in a solution.

The resulting hydrogel (pictured) can then fill into small spaces that are left after a brain tumour is removed, and reach areas that current drugs cannot penetrate and that surgery may miss.

When tested in mice, with brain tumours equivalent to glioblastoma (one of the most fatal types), all of the animals survived in what researchers described as a ‘striking’ result.

Dr Honggang Cui, at Johns Hopkins, said: “We think this hydrogel will be the future and will supplement current treatments for brain cancer.”



Treating inflammatory disease with a 'new' protein 

A newly discovered protein structure involved in the immune response in mice may hold clues to preventing inflammatory diseases, a recent study has found.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, the German Cancer Research Center and University of Bonn, both Germany, and Yale University, USA, looked at how a protein (NLRP10) works by studying mice that were genetically modified to lack the protein.

The team saw that NLRP10 was responsible for forming a ‘bundle’ of proteins known as an inflammasome, which act as detectors of infection or tissue damage in the body and trigger inflammation as a protective response.

Previously, inflammasomes were thought to work in immune cells, but the team saw the new type was found in the cells lining the gut.

This could mean the inflammasome may be able to help with treating inflammatory bowel disease, which can start by causing damage to the gut lining.

Prof Eran Elinav, at Weizmann, said: “The next step is to find out whether the new inflammasome works in humans in the same way as in mice. We might then be able to create a drug that would activate it, so as to speed healing or prevent the damage to tissues that occurs in inflammatory diseases of skin or the intestines.”

For more on how genetically modified mice are used in biomedical research read this recent article, by Camille Bello, in Euronews.

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