Research Roundup: Alzheimer’s vaccine successful in animal trials, HIV vaccine candidate shows promise 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.

  • Alzheimer’s vaccine successful in animal trials. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas showed, by studying mice, that a vaccine successfully and safely prevented the buildup of plaques in the brain associated with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and is fatal. The vaccine prompts the body to produce antibodies that stop the buildup of amyloid and tau, two proteins that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. This new development is promising because previous attempts to find an Alzheimer’s vaccine found, through animal studies, that they caused harmful side effects like brain inflammation, or were not as effective. The current vaccine, which was also studied in monkeys and rabbits, could reduce the total number of dementia diagnoses in half if it progresses to human trials. Published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.
  • New HIV vaccine candidate shows promise. More than 1 million people in the U.S. and nearly 37 million people around the world have HIV and no vaccine is currently available. A candidate HIV vaccine, HIV-1, has been in development for quite some time and the envelope glycoprotein (ENV) of the vaccine is crucial as it contains all the broadly neutralizing antibodies. This week, researchers have reported a new method of stabilizing ENV, and with good efficacy. Much of the previous work owes much to animal research, in mice, rabbits and primates. And ongoing tests are being performed on 24 monkeys. To date, no HIV vaccine has shown effectiveness in a large scale clinical trials — but it is hoped that HIV-1 will change this. Published in Science Advances.
Photo credit: S. Baker, Newcastle University
  • ‘Longevity Protein’ Regenerates Muscle In Old Mice. As we age, our ability to heal skeletal muscles following injury declines, which is one of the reasons why it is more difficult for an elderly person to recover following surgery or a fall. University of Pittsburgh scientists have discovered a possible method for addressing this issue. The research team has developed a mitochondrial-targeting drug able to regenerate muscle in mice deficient – like aging humans – in a key protein that promotes muscle growth. The drug—called SS-31—is currently being evaluated in phase III clinical trials. Published in a recent edition of Nature Communications.
  • Rats and Pigs Involved in Studies to Help Heart Attack Patients Recover. Over 600,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack each year. About 36% of them will eventually develop heart failure due to damaged heart tissue and scarring. Researchers collaborated to apply a new therapy to rats and pigs that healed their heart tissue and improved heart function after a heart attack. A “bandage” that secretes proteins and other molecules necessary for healing heart muscle was applied directly to the heart. The rats with the treatment had significantly more healthy heart tissue compared to the rats without the treatment. In pigs, results showed that the group that received the treatment had better heart function 48 hours after their heart attack than the control group. More study is needed to determine long term effects. Researchers also hope to find less invasive ways to apply the patch. This study was published Science Advances.
Image from Understanding Animal Research
  • Scientists have discovered a species of spider that feed its young milk. The ability of mothers to produce milk for its young is something that is considered unique to mammals — although lactation like feeding has been observed in other species of animals, such as birds. This week, researchers reported on observations of lactation-like feeding, in ant-mimicking jumping spiders — of which its young are completely dependent. Additionally, they observed that similar to some mammals, but in contrast to other spiders the duration and intensity of maternal care was quite high. These results highlight, in sum, that certain aspects of maternal care, are not as unique to mammals as originally thought. Published in Science.