Research Roundup: Hunt for non-addictive pain killer “over”, stimulating brain regeneration to combat MS 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.

  • Hunt for non-addictive painkiller over? Opioid addiction is a major issue for many countries–over 60,000 people died from overdose in 2016. A new compound, AT121, delivers better pain relief than conventional opioid drugs such as morphine — but without the additive side effects. Safety and efficacy testing have been successfully conducted in rats and monkeys and human trials are planned. AT121 works by targeting two receptors, one which supplies pain relief and the other which blocks the pleasure component which contributes to addiction. Published in Science Translational Medicine.
Image of macaques for illustrative purposes.
Image courtesy of: Understanding Animal Research
  • Stimulating brain regeneration to combat Multiple Sclerosis. Researchers at Melbourne University have developed a synthetic peptide, called TDP6, to stimulate the regeneration of myelin. Myelin is the brain’s natural sheath for protecting brain neurons, and is often attacked and damaged by the immune system in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), leading to impaired motor skills and cognition. To test TDP6, scientists administered it to mice genetically engineered to lose their myelin. As predicted, TDP6 stimulated regeneration of myelin, making it a potential treatment for MS. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

  • Human and mouse studies reveal how the immune system’s response to flu varies depending on age. Research conducted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, suggests that the immune system reacts differently to the flu virus, depending on a person’s age. The scientists found that in infants infected with the influenza virus, the body works to maintain lung function by rapidly repairing damaged cells rather than fueling inflammation as is typically the case in older patients. The researchers – who studied both mice and humans to generate the discovery – believe the infant immune system has different priorities because babies’ lungs are smaller and therefore more likely to develop severe complications. Published in the journal Immunity.
  • Research using dogs may be used to treat deadly brain cancer. Glioblastomas are the deadliest of brain cancers–with an incidence of 20,000 cases a year. It is difficult if not impossible to treat and cure. On treatment is particular is currently being tested at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, on a canine version of the cancer. This research is a great example of a treatment being developed in animals for animals that may also have implications for humans. So far, the test results in dogs are promising.