2016 A year in animal research

20 December 2016

Posted by: UAR news team

Category: Communications & media

a year in animal research 2016

2016 - a year in animal research


2016 was the year when Zika came to our attention and UAR Science Writer Mia Rozenbaum wrote about the use of animals in Zika research for the The Huffington Post. It's appropriate that as the year ends the Lancet has just published the successful results of a final trial of an Ebola vaccine that provides high protection against the disease.


Science news included promise of longer life, the possibility of repairing your body to improve quality of life, and a wonderful miscellany of information gleaned from the natural world which might or might not lead to a directly useful application, but certainly contributed to making the world a more interesting place.


Responding to the Concordat, Universities launched new websites, podcasts and videos, and these frequently featured in our news.


As an organisation we try out different methods of communication and this year we used a Reddit ‘Ask me Anything’ session where over 200 questions came in for Professor Colin Blakemore. We’re planning another session in 2017.


We also covered stories about improving conditions for laboratory animals (3R’s) and the occasional anniversary.


Not all the news was good, there was renewed criticism of scientific reporting in the academic press, not least in the tragic context of the death of a young man during a phase 1 clinical trial.


A dozen of these items can be read again below and the rest are on our website.


Thank you for following our news this year, we look forward to passing on many more stories about animal research in 2017.

25/01/16  Researchers question design of fatal French clinical trial

A young man in France died after taking part in a phase 1 clinical trial run by Biotrial on behalf of the Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial. Phase 1 trials are where new medicines are given to humans – usually healthy young men - for the first time. Five other volunteers were hospitalised although in stable condition, though a further eighty-four people who took the drug at previous stages during the trial do not appear to be suffering serious side effects.


24/05/16  Pig cornea transplant cures sight in 200 blind people

8 million people in China are blind with corneal disease being responsible for half these cases. Corneal transplants can treat this disease but there is a lack of human corneas. Last year the Chinese government gave the go-ahead for experimental use of pig corneas and 200 operations have now been carried out. Have a look at this video, patient Wu Pinggui talks about having an operation to transplant a pig's cornea into his eye.


02/06/16  Stem cell brain injections let people walk again after stroke thanks to research in rats

Stem cell brain injections let people walk again after stroke. This is the second trial to take place with the first trial showing measurable reductions in disability a year after receiving their injections. The research was originally carried out in rats which revealed that the stem cells disappeared within a month of being injected after secreting several growth factors that build connections between brain cells and spawn the growth of new blood vessels to nourish growing brain tissue.


29/06/16  Dolly at 20: The inside story on the world’s most famous sheep

From incubation in a bra to an afterlife under glass, how a cloned sheep attained celebrity status.


22/07/16  Immature human neurons repair mouse spinal injury

Chronic pain and loss of bladder control are among the most devastating consequences of spinal cord injury, rated by many patients as a higher priority for treatment than paralysis or numbness.

Now a UC San Francisco team has transplanted immature human neurons into mice with spinal cord injuries, and shown that the cells successfully wire up with the damaged spinal cord to improve bladder control and reduce pain. This is a key step towards developing cell therapies for spinal cord injury in humans, say the researchers, who are currently working to develop the technique for future clinical trials.


30/07/16  The Flyway Code: How do birds avoid crashing into each other in mid-air?

They always veer right! Professor Mandyam Srinivasan, of Queensland University in Australia, who led the research, said: “Birds must have been under strong evolutionary pressure to establish basic rules and strategies to minimise the risk of collision in advance.
“But no previous studies have ever examined what happens when two birds fly towards each other.
“Our modelling has shown that birds always veer right – and sometimes they change their altitude as well, according to some pre-set preference.


29/08/16  The HPV vaccine has halved worldwide cervical cancer rates

In Australia, the first country to roll out the vaccine, has seen rates of HPV drop by 90% - this is important given that a number of cancers (including cervical) are believed to be caused by HPV. The vaccine was made possible after years of research which included work on rabbits, dogs, mice and cows.


"As with most medical discoveries, animal research played a vital role in the development of the HPV vaccine[ ...] From rabbits, to mice, to non-human primates, many species were involved in uncovering the link from HPV-cervical cancer and in developing the first effective vaccine."

Read more about the animal research behind HPV: https://speakingofresearch.com/…/hpv-vaccine-a-success-in-…/

3/10/16  Human organs for transplant grown inside pigs

Scientists create human-pig embryo to overcome worldwide shortage of transplant organs
A team of scientists from the University of California have created a technique to overcome the worldwide shortage of human organs required for transplants. Human stem cells are injected into pig embryos to produce human-pig embryos known as chimeras. They are inserted into a sow and the embryo develops into a normal pig with a human pancreas.


19/10/16  New hope for stroke patients

In what could be a significant breakthrough for stroke patients, researchers at Newcastle University have developed a smartphone-sized device with the potential to restore movement to partially paralysed hands.


27/10/16  Child brain tumour modelled in zebrafish

An existing group of drugs reduced or eliminated childhood brain cancer while sparing normal brain tissue in zebrafish, according to a new study published in Cell Reports.

Researchers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah concentrated on primitive neuroectodermal tumours of the central nervous system (CNS-PNET), a particularly aggressive paediatric brain tumour. Until now, researchers had been without a cell line or accurate model for CNS-PNET, which made it impossible to test treatments.

The research team then used the zebrafish model to test already existing compounds, including MEK inhibitors. Previous research had indicated that MEK inhibitors already in a clinical trial might work.
MEK inhibitors eliminated tumours in 80% of the zebrafish treated. Additionally, these tumours did not return.


9/11/16 Brain implant counters paralysis in primate

An implant that beams instructions out of the brain has been used to restore movement in paralysed primates for the first time, say scientists.

Rhesus monkeys were paralysed in one leg due to a damaged spinal cord.
The team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology bypassed the spinal injury by sending the instructions straight from the brain to the nerves controlling leg movement in real time.


09/12/16  Encapsulated cells diabetes treatment

A cell-based diabetes treatment has been developed by scientists who say it could eliminate the need for those with the condition to inject insulin.

The therapy involves a capsule of genetically engineered cells implanted under the skin that automatically release insulin as required. Diabetic mice that were treated with the cells were found to have normal blood sugar levels for several weeks.

Scientists said they hope to obtain a clinical trial licence to test the technology in patients within two years.