October 11th 2021



EARA News Digest 2021 - Week 41

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

Regenerating heart cells after injury - video

A team at EARA member the Max Planck Institute of Heart and Lung Research, Germany, has shown for the first time, using basic research, how the heart can regenerate after damage.
Adult heart cells, known as cardiomyocytes, have very little capacity for repair due to the low number of regenerative stem cells present.
Using mice which have undergone heart injury, the researchers reprogrammed mature cardiomyocytes into foetal-like cardiomyocytes to make them resemble how they appear in early development and then demonstrated that they could improve the recovery of the mice.
In a video on LinkedIn, lead scientist Johnny Kim, at Max Planck, explained how the reprogrammed cardiomyocytes repair a damaged heart. He also discussed the implications for new approaches that aid heart regeneration, using specialised viruses modified to deliver DNA (known as viral vectors) in a collaboration with VectorBuilder, also an EARA member.
The results, published in Science, are now being tested in human cardiomyocytes.



Studies of the senses using mice win Nobel Prize

Research with mice to understand the sensations of heat and touch has been recognised in this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The prize went jointly to US scientists David Julius of University of California, and Ardem Patapoutian, of Scripps Research, in La Jolla, for their discoveries of receptors in the skin that sense temperature and touch. 

The breakthrough discoveries identified missing links between our senses and the environment, paving the way for potential new treatments for conditions such as chronic pain. 

Both scientists used mice in their studies. Patapoutian found sensors that respond to touch and pressure, while David Julius identified a receptor that responds to heat, noticing that pain sensation was impaired in mice that lacked the receptor for capsaicin - an ingredient in chili peppers. 



Minipigs provide alternative for vaccine testing

EARA members, from Denmark and France, have demonstrated how minipigs can help develop and test new vaccines against whooping cough.
At an Ellegaard Göttingen Minipigs online webinar last week, pharma company Sanofi Pasteur, explained how the minipig is a good model for studying the long-term effects of the pertussis vaccine, used to protect children from whooping cough, compared to baboons which are the current preferred model.
Minipigs were vaccinated at a similar schedule to humans, and the immune cells and antibodies produced over the following six months showed a very similar profile to what is known in humans.
Asked about the potential of using minipigs as an alternative to monkeys in testing other vaccines, Céline Vaure, of Sanofi, said it may be possible as ‘the immune system maturation in minipigs is more comparable to humans than in non-human primates’.



‘Historic’ victory as malaria vaccine approved

The World Health Organization has approved the first vaccine against malaria for widespread rollout in Africa.

The vaccine, developed thanks to 30 years of research by EARA member GSK, including in mice and non-human primates, is the first to be approved for protection against the disease.

Trials showed that the vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was able to prevent four in 10 cases of malaria, and three in 10 of the most severe cases, when doses were given to children from five-months-old.

“Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” said WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

Earlier this year, a trial of a separate anti-malaria vaccine developed by the Jenner Institute of Oxford University, UK, was announced as reaching the international standards of effectiveness.

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