Welcome to this week’s Research Roundup. These Friday posts aim to inform our readers about the many stories that relate to animal research each week. Do you have an animal research story we should include in next week’s Research Roundup? You can send it to us via our Facebook page or through the contact form on the website.
- Two NIH researchers nominated for prestigious public service award for Zika work. Each year, the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (dubbed “The Sammies”) highlight excellence in our federal workforce and inspire other talented and dedicated individuals to go into public service. Known as “The Oscars” of government service, these awards are a highly respected honor with a vigorous selection process. This year, Drs.Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D And Theodore C. Pierson, Ph.D., from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH, are finalists for the 2018 Promising Innovations Medal for their work in developing a promising vaccine now in clinical testing to prevent the Zika virus. The vaccine moved from inception to manufacturing in an unprecedented three months — an exceptionally short time frame — and was possible because of concurrent in vitro and in vivo testing. Crucially, the team conducted animal studies (in mice and nonhuman primates) to determine effectiveness, and concurrent Phase I human trials to demonstrate safety, prior to the clinical trial. Voting is open now to the public, and winners will be announced in July.
- New research suggests that some memories can be stored in an organism’s genetic code. A unique study in snails – in which memories appear to have been translated from one animal to another – served as the basis for this finding. A team of UCLA researchers trained animals to become sensitized to an electronic stimulus. They then transplanted RNA from the nervous system of one snail to another. Fascinatingly, the snail that received the transplanted genetic material demonstrated the same trained reflexes to the electronic stimulus as the animal that provided the RNA. These findings have evolutionary implications for memory functioning in humans. “The way science proceeds is, you figure out the simple things first, and then you build on them,” said David L. Glanzman, a UCLA neuroscientist and lead author of the study. “Many of the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory that we identify in all animals were first observed in the snail.” The findings are published in the journal Neuro.
- An overly-aggressive immune system may play a key role in multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects about 1 in 1,000 people in the U.S. While we have known for some time that MS is tied to the breakdown of myelin sheaths around neurons in the brain, the reasons why some people develop the disease and others do not remains somewhat of a mystery. However, new data out of the University of Geneva suggests that an overly-aggressive immune system may be to blame. The research team used mouse models to study the autoimmune responses to two pathogens – one viral and one bacterial. Only the mice that infected with the viral pathogen developed a disease similar to MS. Researchers then looked more closely and discovered that a DNA-binding factor called TOX was expressed only in white blood cells activated by the viral pathogen. They then confirmed the link between TOX and MS by studying mice in which they eliminated TOX expression in white blood cells — these mice did not express the disease. The research was published in the journal Immunity.
- Focused ultrasound may help shrink tumors in pets. Animal research helping animals! Focused ultrasound is a noninvasive therapeutic technology that uses ultrasound energy guided by real-time imaging to kill tumors without surgery or radiation. Researchers at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech conducted an animal clinical trial and found that the therapy shrank a malignant sarcoma on the foreleg of a 9-year-old pet cocker spaniel. The rest of the tumor was surgically excised, preventing amputation.Meanwhile, doctors at Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences are examining how focused ultrasound can be used to speed wound healing in combination with antibiotics in dogs and cats.
~Speaking of Research