This month in animal research March 2018
International 3Rs Prize awarded for computer modelling that predicts human cardiac safety better than animal studies
The National Centre for the 3Rs has awarded the 2017 International 3Rs Prize to Dr Elisa Passini and colleagues from the University of Oxford and Janssen Pharmaceutica for developing an in silico model that predicts cardiotoxicity more accurately than animal studies.
Ten connected miniature organs are best human-on-a-chip yet
The system survived for four weeks, and allowed scientists to test the effects of a common painkiller on multiple organs. Such systems could eventually do away with animal testing, says Linda Griffith at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the work.
Aggressive breast cancer tumours can be 'transformed' into more treatable form
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have made mice with aggressive and difficult-to-treat breast cancer tumours responsive to conventional treatments. Experimental drugs were used to disrupt the tumour cells communication with the connective tissue cells of the breast. This new technique could provide a “real opportunity” to improve the survival chances of the 15% of patients whose breast cancer is resistant to front-line therapies.
Genetically engineered cells can seek and destroy brain cancer
Promising results in mice using a technique used for other types of cancer. CAR-T treatments are made by taking ordinary T cells – a type of immune cell – from a person with cancer and genetically engineering them to target and attack cancer cells.
The technique was first tried in 2013, curing a person of an otherwise fatal blood cancer within 8 days, but such approaches are not widespread yet, and are more difficult to apply to solid tumours. Dotti’s team may now have managed this for glioblastomas in mice. They have identified a molecule that is on the surface of cells in around two-thirds of glioblastoma tumours, but is not present on healthy cells. They engineered CAR-T cells to target this molecule, and gave them to ten mice that had been given human glioblastoma tumours.
This caused the tumours to disappear in six of the mice. Tumours continued growing in the other four mice treated, and ten control mice given unaltered T cells.
Journal reference: Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aao2731
A study in mice in Switzerland showed mice showing self-taming shows many characteristics of human-driven domestication.
Leopards that live in cities are protecting people from rabies
About 20,000 people die of rabies in India every year. Feral dogs are the main source, as they bite people and pass on the rabies virus.
When leopards stray into a city, people often fear them because of the danger they pose. But it turns out these big cats could be valuable neighbours: by preying on feral dogs in Mumbai, they are reducing the risk of people catching rabies.
Christopher O’Bryan and Alexander Braczkowski at the University of Queensland and their colleagues compiled existing data on the diet of leopards living in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, on the edges of Mumbai. They found that 40 per cent of the average leopard’s diet consists of feral dogs.