8 de Abril de 2024

EARA News Digest 2024 - Week 15

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

This week: Alzheimer's & miceWebsite openness examplesCancer vaccine for dogsMarmosets in brain research

The role of immune cells in Alzheimer's

Mice with transplanted human brain cells may provide an improved way to study the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Researchers, led by EARA member the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), along with EARA member KU Leuven, both Belgium, and the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI), genetically engineered mice to mimic the build-up of amyloid-β protein (known as amyloid plaques) that are central to AD.

The mice also had a type of brain immune cell called microglia, derived from human stem cells, transplanted into them – microglia react to amyloid plaques as part of the immune response and are responsible for driving brain inflammation, which is a characteristic of AD.

Bart De Strooper, at VIB-KU Leuven and UK DRI, said: “The study provides new insights into the complex ways human microglia respond to AD, which could help researchers develop better treatments for the disease.”



Website content on animal research – recent examples

Some examples of openness about animal research on the websites of biomedical institutions in Spain and the USA have come to our attention.

The Applied and Experimental Biomedical Research Center (CREBA) in Lleida, Spain, has improved the virtual tour function on its website by adding images of the pigs it uses in its research (pictured) – found directly via the drop-down menu for the Corralina2 facility – where the animals are housed.

CREBA has also added imagery of pigs undergoing surgery for research purposes in the photo album of the gallery.

Lola Garcia Olmo, technical manager at CREBA, explained: “The truth is that, in addition to contributing to transparency, this tool is serving us a lot when potential users are interested in the Center’s possibilities.”

CREBA provides biomedical facilities for translational research, in particular for long-term projects that use large animals, as well as continuing education and training for health professionals.

EARA will soon be publishing the latest edition of its Website Openness Study, which has analysed the content of almost 1,000 institutional websites in all EU member states, to assess how open they are in showcasing the use of animals for biomedical research.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington, in Seattle, USA, highlighted the improvements to its webpages on animal research, at a recent webinar by the Zebrafish Husbandry Association, an EARA member.

The webpage content includes a full statement about its use of animals, the numbers and species of animals used at the university, FAQs and further information on the 3Rs.



Dog study unveils cancer vaccine promise

Researchers from the US have developed a cancer vaccine able to slow or halt the progression of certain cancers in dogs.
Cancer remains a leading cause of death among dogs, with traditional treatments often coming with significant limitations and challenging side effects.
This immunotherapy technology, developed at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, gets the dog immune cells to produce antibodies that hunt the protein receptors in tumour cells that are responsible for their uncontrolled growth.
The vaccine is now under review by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), after undergoing successful multiple trials.

One of the treated dogs includes an 11-year-old golden retriever named Hunter (pictured and featured on YouTube), who had bone cancer, but has shown no signs of cancer two years post-diagnosis.
Mark Mamula, the lead researcher at Yale, said: "Dogs, just like humans, get cancer spontaneously; they grow and metastasize and mutate, just like human cancers do.”
This breakthrough was published in Translational Oncology.



Marmosets contribute to brain research

Two recent studies, in Japan, have shown the value of using marmoset monkeys to study brain conditions.

Research at Kobe University looked at marmosets and mice, to understand the early differences in synapses – the connections between brain neurons that transmit signals and information.

Immature development of synapses are linked to neuropsychiatric disorders, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. In the brains of monkeys and humans, synapses start to decrease from early childhood, but the mechanism behind how they change as the brain matures is not well understood.

By studying both species of animal shortly after birth, the team identified a group of proteins that give the first insights into the early development of synapses at the protein level.

In addition, when the data was compared with that of people with autism, the researchers found some of the same gene patterns, paving the way for a better understanding of how autism may emerge. 

Meanwhile, research at Keio University, Tokyo, has developed a model of the early stages of Parkinson’s by creating marmosets with a mutated version of a protein that seems to drive the disease in some people.

These animals provide a new way to mimic the natural onset and progression of Parkinson’s in humans.

This also allowed the team to identify that unusually high activity in a brain region involved in controlling movement, could be an early predictor of the disease.

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