June 14th 2021


14 de Junho 2021


EARA News Digest 2021 - Week 24

Welcome to your Monday morning update, from EARA, on the latest news in biomedical science, policy and openness on animal research. 
Help us celebrate openness on animal research:

Antibody drug that reduces Covid-19 symptoms approved

The EU has purchased 55,000 doses of a monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid-19, which significantly reduces the hospitalisation of patients.

REGN-COV2, produced by Regeneron in the US and Roche in Europe, contains two components - one animal-derived and one human-derived antibody. These target different regions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, making it more likely it will still be effective against new variants of the virus.

Pre-clinical trials in hamsters and monkeys, showed that the cocktail was effective, and then clinical trials in Covid-19 patients demonstrated a 70% reduction in hospital admissions and death.

EARA has been working to promote the value of animal-derived antibodies in basic, therapeutic and animal health research, following the EURL ECVAM recommendation on non-animal-derived last year.

The treatment is the first based on monoclonal antibodies to be secured by the EU and is now under rolling review by the European Medicines Agency, however EU countries can use the drug under emergency authorisation.



Smartwatch helps deliver insulin for diabetics

Researchers at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, have developed a device which can control the release of insulin through a smartwatch.

Smartwatches emit a green light which can penetrate the skin and record a user’s heartrate throughout the day. To capitalise on this, the team implanted a device, under the skin of diabetic mice, which contains cells that include an insulin-producing gene that is activated by green light.

An electronic smartwatch was then attached to a mouse’s back, and insulin was produced by the cells whenever the green light was on, restoring the animal’s blood sugar levels.

The team will now adapt the system for human use, using the patient’s own cells for insulin release in the device.

“It’s the first time that an implant of this kind has been operated using commercially available, smart electronic devices,” said group leader Martin Fussenegger.



Brain organoid model wins 3Rs prize

Work on organoids that could replace the use of mice in some brain studies has won the UK’s major prize for non-animal methods in biomedical research.

The award by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), sponsored by EARA member GSK, went to Dr Laura Pellegrini (pictured) from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (see video).

The research is a major breakthrough as the MRC team developed brain organoids representative of the choroid plexus - the protective barrier between the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), similar to the blood-brain barrier.

Currently, rodents but sometimes macaques, are used in preclinical research to establish the ability of drugs to cross the choroid plexus and into the central nervous system.

Introducing the human organoids as a screening platform could help to prevent ineffective compounds progressing to further studies.

Diseases such as hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain) or choroid plexus cancers are also typically studied using CSF derived from mouse embryos.



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