This week in animal research 091216

9 December 2016

Posted by: UAR news team

Category: Research & medical benefits

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.

Toxin resistant fish

Atlantic killifish taken from four sites on the United States’ east coast were found to be up to 8,000 times more resistant to a complex mix of chemicals such as dioxins, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other substances.

The researchers sequenced the genome of nearly 400 killifish and found they had managed to adapt to their new environment.

This was because they had a high degree of genetic difference between individuals, which is a distinct advantage when the environment changes dramatically.

'Beautiful' dinosaur tail found preserved in amber

The one-of-a-kind discovery helps put flesh on the bones of these extinct creatures, opening a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years.

Examination of the specimen suggests the tail was chestnut brown on top and white on its underside.

The tail is described in the journal Current Biology.

'Flashing light therapy' for Alzheimer's

A flashing light therapy might help ward off Alzheimer's, say US scientists after promising trials in mice.

The Massachusetts team found shining a strobe light into rodents' eyes encouraged protective microglia scavenger cells to gobble up the harmful proteins that accumulate in the brain in this type of dementia.

The perfect rate of flashes was 40 per second - a barely perceptible flicker, four times as fast as a disco strobe.

The mice that they studied were genetically engineered to have Alzheimer's-type damage in their brain, Nature journal reports. 

Fats fuel metastasis

The cells responsible for cancer’s spread — and for most deaths from cancer — may have a fatal weakness according to studies in mice: a reliance on certain fats to fuel their invasion.

Benitah and his team found that high CD36 expression was required for metastasis in mice. Antibodies that blocked CD36 — and eliminated its interaction with fatty acids — completely inhibited metastasis, although they did not affect the development of primary tumours.  

Benitah notes that such a therapy may be effective even after cancer has started to spread: in mice, experimental antibodies eradicated metastatic tumours 15% of the time. The remaining metastatic tumours shrunk by at least 80%.

Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2016.21092

Giraffes facing 'silent extinction' as population plunges

A dramatic drop in giraffe populations over the past 30 years has seen the world's tallest land mammal classified as vulnerable to extinction.

Numbers have gone from around 155,000 in 1985 to 97,000 in 2015 according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The iconic animal has declined because of habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest in many parts of Africa.


UAR hosted the third Openness Awards and the 80th Stephen Paget memorial lecture last night at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

Openness Awards

The awards celebrated four institutions and an individual who have helped further the way in which animal research is communicated in the United Kingdom.  

The judging committee selected examples of best practice that they felt were appropriate to a range of audiences, and which had a component that was original or truly leading in terms of institutional practice.

The Internal or Sector Engagement Award was presented to the Institute of Animal Technology for the development of their Careers Pathway. The pathway provides a clear career structure and development for animal technologists from school leavers to managers. It is open about the need to improve training, and seeks to raise standards, empowering animal care staff.

The Public Engagement Activity Award was presented to the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute for their museum event engaging public audiences with cancer research. The event was hands-on and interactive with a public audience that were not selected or pre-arranged. The extent of planning and consideration that the initiative must have involved was particularly impressive. Imperial College London was highly commended in this category for its podcast and social media activities, engaging audiences with the release of statistics on animal research.

The winner of the Media Engagement Award was the University of Leicester for its work with The Sun, which visited the University’s animal facilities to cover a story about how animals are used in obesity research. Leicester was professional and open in its approach, inviting the newspaper to see anything that they wanted to create a really good story. The tabloid papers represent a channel to a hard-to-reach and key audience for scientific research, and the resulting coverage was balanced and well-considered.

Many Concordat signatories now have web-pages detailing their animal research, and several had nominated their new webpages for the Website Award. The University of Manchester was a clear winner. Information was accessible and appropriate to a wide range of audiences, but layered and easy to navigate. The material covered was extensive and of an excellent standard, and the infographic and Q&A sections are particularly impressive. Both the MRC Centre for Macaques website and the University of Edinburgh website were highly commended in this category. The Centre for Macaques provides accessible information about the breeding and use of primates in research, communicating effectively about a controversial area and exploring the balance of harms and benefits effectively. The University of Edinburgh has an excellent website which is engaging and easy to navigate with lots of information on the 3Rs and case studies showing the breadth of research carried out.

UAR’s Individual Award for Outstanding Contribution to Openness in Animal Research was presented to Andy Gay. There are few people in our sector who truly epitomise the spirit of openness about animal research, but Andy was encouraging journalists and others to come and see the reality of animal research many years before the Concordat existed.  He personally suffered at the hands of animal rights extremists, but his conviction that openness and more communication are the only way to tackle misunderstanding meant that he continued to champion the cause when others were too afraid to do so.

The 80th Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture

The Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture is a scientific lecture to commemorate the life of Dr Stephen Paget (1855 – 1926), the founder of the Research Defence Society, a forerunner of Understanding Animal Research. He believed passionately that better science and understanding of physiology would lead to better medical treatments. 

The Paget Lecture was first delivered in 1927 and has subsequently been presented by scientific luminaries including Sir Henry Dale (Nobel Prize, 1936), Sir Howard Florey (Nobel Prize, 1945) and Sir Peter Medawar (Nobel Prize, 1960).

The lecture, Animal Research – Then and Now, was presented by HM Government Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Sir Mark Walport. After a historic review of the emergence of legislation governing the use of animals in research Sir Mark challenged the scientific community to provide a more thoroughly researched evidence base to support animal use. While congratulating the excellent examples of Openness that had been awarded, he cautioned against dragooning unwilling scientists into communicating about their research.

Second annual Concordat on Openness Report

To coincide with the Openness Awards and Paget Lecture, UAR has published the second annual report on the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK. The report details how signatories to the Concordat have fulfilled their commitments to improve openness and transparency, summarising information provided by the signatory organisations at the end of the Concordat’s second year.



Last edited: 5 November 2020 18:09