June 17th 2024


EARA News Digest 2024 - Week 25

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

This week: Tackling antimicrobial resistanceAnimal research & rare diseases – EARA featureVideo of UK dog breeding facilityDiet & metabolic disease

New antibiotic to tackle antimicrobial resistance?

US researchers have found a new antibiotic that can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in mice, without targeting healthy gut bacteria.

The World Health Organization estimates that bacterial antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is directly responsible for more than a million deaths each year, due to misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans, animals and plants.

A team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, identified specific drugs, developed by pharmaceutical company and EARA member AstraZeneca, that target a protein transport system (Lol system) in bacteria, which differs genetically between those that cause disease and those that are beneficial, such as those naturally found in the gut.

Currently, antibiotics can target different categories of bacteria, such as gram-negative bacteria, which have a double membrane that makes them harder to kill. However, this means that both infectious and healthy gram-negative bacteria are targeted, damaging the gut microbiome and increasing the risk of health complications.

In the study, published in Nature, the researchers designed different structures of the Lol system and found one variation (lolamicin) could selectively kill a number of infectious gram-negative strains.

When lolamicin was given to mice with drug-resistant septicemia or pneumonia, all the mice with septicemia survived, while 70% with pneumonia survived.

The composition of the gut bacteria in these animals was also not significantly altered, both during the treatment and 28 days after.

First author Kristen Muñoz said: “The mouse microbiome is a good tool for modelling human infections because human and mouse gut microbiomes are very similar.” 



Animal use in rare disease research – EARA feature

EARA has published its latest feature on how animal research is used in the study of disease – this time, rare diseases, which have been identified as a growing health priority globally.

Because these diseases are rare (although they affect up to 446 million people worldwide), usually very little is known about them and animal studies therefore play a key role in research. They allow scientists to study organs and whole body systems, as well as employ techniques such as gene editing to provide the best possible insights.

The article looks at different rare diseases, from those that start in childhood - 70% of all rare diseases - to those that are genetic (around 70-80%), as well as certain cancers and brain conditions.

In addition, we look at EU policy on tackling rare diseases and how alternative methods can complement the findings of animal research, to improve our understanding and treatments.



Video sheds light on dog breeding for research 

A video has been published showcasing the well-being and regulations involved in the breeding of dogs for scientific research in the UK, at the facility of EARA member Marshall Bioresources (MBR).
The six-minute video produced by the UK advocacy group Understanding Animal Research (UAR), also an EARA member, features the breeding facility MBR Acres, in Cambridgeshire. It highlights the care given to the beagles housed there and their access to play areas to ensure mental and physical stimulation.
It also details how pregnant dogs are carefully monitored to ensure the health of the mother and her litter, with improved housing conditions close to delivery and during whelping.
MBR Acres and its staff have been the long-term focus of animal rights activists, who maintain a long-standing protest outside the facility and have called for the dogs to be rehomed.
The video ends by emphasising the importance of dog research in safety testing for new drugs, accurately predicting safety outcomes up to 96% of the time, and contributing to medical advances such as insulin and the heart defibrillator. See further information about MBR Acres.
Although dogs represent 0.2% of overall animal research in the UK, their use remains necessary for certain types of research, amd is conducted under stringent ethical guidelines and enforced by the UK Home Office.
See also the EARA feature on why dogs are used in biomedical research.



Father's diet linked to metabolic disease in mice

Recent research in mice has found a link between a father's diet and the health of offspring, revealing new ways to approach the treatment of metabolic diseases.

Metabolic syndrome occurs when normal chemical reactions in the body are disrupted, (for example, when the liver or pancreas do not function properly), resulting in effects such as high blood pressure that can in turn lead to heart conditions or stroke, among others.

The syndrome, which is becoming  increasingly common, is typically linked to factors such as inactivity or being overweight, although it can also be genetic.

A study, led by Helmholtz Centre Munich and the German Center for Diabetes Research, both Germany, and also involving EARA member the University of Turku, Finland, analysed a database of 3,000 families to see whether the syndrome could be linked to a parents’ diet and weight. This showed that the weight of fathers could influence the weight of their children, independent of genetics or the environment.

The researchers then tested if this link also happened in male mice that were fed a high-fat diet, and via IVF, found that this also lead to offspring that were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

This was due to the father’s mitochondrial DNA making it into the embryos, which then affected the health and development of the offspring, by changing the activity of certain genes (it was once assumed only the mother’s mitochondrial DNA was inherited).

Raffaele Teperino, at Helmholtz, said: “Our results suggest that preventive health care for men wishing to become fathers should receive more attention and that programs should be developed for this purpose, especially with regard to diet.” 

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