November 30th 2020

EARA News Digest 2020 - Week 49

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.
See EARA's Coronavirus updates

Portuguese virtual lab tour with science puzzles

EARA member Instituto Gulbenkian Ciência (IGC), Portugal, has launched a virtual open day challenging the visitors to answer questions as they follow the tour.

The interactive tour (available mainly in Portuguese), uses 360-degree technology, and gives the opportunity to explore different labs, while scientists are explaining their work.

At the fruit fly facility, Joana Bom of IGC, explains why we still need to use animals in biomedical science; which animal models are used at the institution; how the research is regulated and the training needed to perform animal studies.

EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “It’s great to see such an imaginative initiative by IGC. This is a great way to give the pubic an insight into important scientific work.”



Leading the way for scar-free healing using zebrafish

The world’s first science programme, to identify the genes that cause scarring, has been launched in the UK and focuses on a zebrafish model.

The £1.5 million five-year project, funded by the Scar Free Foundation - a medical research charity - will be led by the University of Bristol, UK.

Dr Beck Richardsontold the BBC: “Live imaging studies in translucent zebrafish will allow us to see how changes to these genes affects certain cells involved in scarring and gives us an experimental window to watch scars being formed and to identify ways to stop this."
The Scar Free Foundation Programme of Wound Healing Research will combine large-scale population health data, with the zebrafish studies.



Practical tips for communicating on animal research – EARA event

Two sell-out online EARA events for audiences in Belgium and Greece this month have highlighted the growing desire of researchers to communicate about their work to the public.

EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, explained to both audiences that while progress was being made, there was 'still far more that needed to be done'.

Improving Openness in Animal Research in Greece was hosted by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and heard about the value of working with patient groups and received practical tips on working with the media.

While in Belgium, Professor Jef Arnout, of event hosts KU Leuven, spoke about the measures that the university has taken to help increase transparency about the research that takes place.

“We need a culture of reflection, and a culture of dialogue, to forward our transparency and research using animals", he said.

The event series is supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and there will be a further discussion, hosted by the University of Pécs, Hungary, this week on Friday, 4 November, register here.



Animal research helps understanding of autism

Scientists in the US are using mice and zebrafish to help understand some of the symptoms experienced by people with autism, caused by a gene mutation.
Mutations in SYNGAP1 - a gene found present in synapses which form junctions between neurons in the brain and help pass on chemical messages - are often associated with autism.
In a virtual conference, researchers from Scripps Research, Florida, presented unpublished work showing that mice with mutations in SYNGAP1 had much lower responses to touch than those without the mutation.
In addition, researchers at the University of Miami, presented their work showing a link between SYNGAP1 mutations and food digestion.
Thanks to the transparent properties of young zebrafish, the researchers were able to visualise how quickly food was passed through the digestive systems of the fish, which was much slower in those with the gene mutation.
The team are now recruiting patients with this mutation for further study.



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