Research Roundup: Zika researchers nominated for public service award, transplanting memories in snails, and more!

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.
animal testing, monkey research
Macaque monkeys at CNPRC. Credit: K. West.
  • 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.    
Snail used in neuroscience research. Credit: D. Glanzman
Cocker spaniel. Source: Public Domain Pictures.

~Speaking of Research