Animal research brings home the gold

The 2019 Golden Goose Awards have been announced, and once again animal research wins!

These awards were established in 2012 by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) to honor federally funded research“whose work may once have been viewed as unusual, odd, or obscure, but has produced important discoveries benefiting society in significant ways.” The awards, which have bipartisan support, serve as a strong counterargument to those claiming that basic research is a waste of federal spending.

Library of Congress Reading Room. Credit: Shutterstock.

Since the inception of the awards, scientists conducting responsible research with animals have won Golden Goose Awards, and 2019 is no different. In fact, each winner this year is based on animal research. This year’s animal research-based awardees conduct important basic research to add to our knowledge base of how living systems work. This knowledge, in turn, has led to important discoveries that have benefitted society – truly, a return on investment.

This year’s awardees will be honored at an awards ceremony later today at the U.S. Library of Congress. The 2019 Golden Goose Award winners, which ceremonially are honored by the titles of the work, are:

Frog Skin Saves 50 Million Lives

Dr. David Sachar, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, conducted basic research with frog skin to understand the basic biological functions of cholera in humans. Without quick treatment, approximately half of people with cholera die, but with treatment more than 99% survive. Dr. Sachar’s research, which he conducted in Bangladesh in 1965, relied on adapting an experimental apparatus that used frog skin to test intestinal activity in cholera patients. This research, and the human clinical trials that resulted from it, are credited with saving approximately 50 million lives worldwide.

Laboratory frogs. Source: University of Portsmouth

The Improbably Contribution of Horseshoe Crab Blood to the Testing of Human Drugs

Endotoxins are highly toxic molecules that are present inside a bacterial cell that are released when the cell disintegrates. Unlike humans, who can die from high levels of endotoxins in their blood, horseshoe crabs have an efficient and powerful mechanism to fight bacterial infection. In the 1950s, Drs. Frederick Bang and Jack Levin, working at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA, discovered that horseshoe crab blood clots when exposed to endotoxins. Using the horseshoe crab blood, Dr. Levin developed a test that detects the presence of bacterial endotoxins in the blood. The LAL test (Limulus amoebocyte lysate) test is now a standard test that is used to examine nearly all drugs, injections, and pharmaceutical devices worldwide for endotoxins before they are given to patients. In the U.S., mortality from botulism, which is caused by the botulinum toxins, has dropped from >60% in the 1950s to just 3% in the period 1975-2009. Although the exact number is impossible to determine, likely millions of lives have been saved given that the presence of endotoxins in life-saving vaccines, medicines, and devices would compromise the health of patients.

Horseshoe crab. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

When the Body Attacks Itself: Advancing Autoimmunity

Working at the University of Buffalo in the 1950s, Dr. Noel Rose, under the guidance of Dr. Ernest Witebsky, discovered by studying rabbits that animals could respond immunologically to their own proteins. By preparing a thyroid protein called thyroblobulin from part of a rabbit’s thyroid gland, and injecting it back into the same rabbit, Rose essentially induced an autoimmune disease experimentally. At the time, scientists and physicians did not know autoimmune reactions were possible. Dr. Rose and his collaborators’ basic research launched the field of autoimmune disease, and led to future discoveries, including the genetic basis of autoimmune disease, that have changed our understanding of immune function and have enabled treatments and therapies. In the U.S. alone, 23.5 million people suffer from autoimmune diseases, while the health of both humans and other animals is integrally linked to immune function.

animal testing, animal research, vivisection, animal experiment
Rabbit in research. Credit: Speaking of Research.

Speaking of Research commends Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), a.k.a. “Father Goose,” and the bipartisan group of legislators who staunchly support basic research and continually advocate for increased federal funding in this area. These legislators include Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

As Rep. Cooper said when this year’s awards were announced, “Taxpayers have received untold benefits from breakthroughs that have lengthened and enriched our lives. Let’s keep progress on track by boosting funding for research!”


~Speaking of Research