January 25th 2021

EARA News Digest 2020 - Week 4

Welcome to your Monday morning update, from EARA, on the latest developments in biomedical science, policy and openness in animal research in Europe and around the world.
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Animal studies show way to reverse blindness

US scientists have found a potential treatment for blindness in patients with retinal disorders, that affect around 200 million people worldwide.
Using donor human cadaver eyes, researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, US, transplanted retinal pigment epithelium cells, which regulate normal vision, into the retina of partially sighted non-human primates.
Their results, published in Stem Cell Reports, show at least partial restoration of vision in the monkeys, with no serious side effects.
The research follows successful studies, using the same method, in rats and rabbits, and the team now hope to move forward with human clinical trials.



Understanding glaucoma in rats

Research in rats, published during Glaucoma Awareness Month, suggests potential treatments for the eye condition.

Scientists at Karolinska InstitutetSt. Erik Eye Hospital, Sweden, Cardiff University, UK, and University of Copenhagen, Denmark, used rats to study glaucoma – an eye disease that leads to either partial or total loss of vision.

The researchers (pictured) found and quantified changes in microglia cells - the main form of immune defence in the central nervous system.

“This study furthers the evidence of an inflammatory immune component to glaucoma and identifies new targets to follow up as potential therapies which could benefit future patients,” said James Tribble, first author of the study.



Breakthrough in motor neurone disease research

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, UK, have discovered a way in which neurons can be repaired, so as to stop muscle wastage in motor neurone disease (MND).
The team first grew neurons, fundamental units of the brain and nervous system, from stem cells donated by patients with a mutation in the C9orf72 gene - the gene is associated with MND thanks to research using mice.
Researchers found that the axons, the part of the neuron which communicates with muscle cells, were shorter than normal and that mitochondria, which power the cells, were also impaired.
Then by using a drug to boost the mitochondria the team restored the energy levels to those seen in healthy neurons.
"Our data provides hope that by restoring the cell's energy source we can protect the axons and their connection to muscle from degeneration”, said Dr Arpan Metha (pictured), lead author on the study.



Ben Stiller to host free event on rare disease

An online US event looking at the path to a new treatment for ALS (or MND), based on a patient story, takes place next week.

Hosted by the American actors Ben Stiller and ER/The Good Wife star, Julianna Margulies, the event is supported among others by EARA member Charles River.

“The Hermstad Legacy:  Advances in Treatments for ALS - A Rare Disease Trailblazer Story” takes place on Thursday, 4 February, 11am – 4pm ET.

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