November 23rd 2020

EARA News Digest 2020 - Week 48

Welcome to your Monday morning update, from EARA, on the latest developments in biomedical science, policy and openness in animal research in Europe and around the world.
See EARA's Coronavirus updates

Biomedical sector still at an ‘unsatisfactory level of openness’ about animal research 

The second EARA study of websites of biomedical research bodies across the EU, to assess how they discuss research using animals, shows that despite some progress, there is still an unsatisfactory level of openness and transparency.

The report, the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2020, contains detailed analysis and examples of good practice from EU biomedical institutions and builds on the first study that was conducted in 2018.

A total of 1,065 institutional websites, within the EU, were assessed during 2020, both public and private bodies, including universities and pharmaceutical companies, with ratings used for important aspects of openness.

EARA has also produced an interactive map with a breakdown of the results in each category for each EU member state and there is separate analysis for BelgiumFranceGermanyItalyNetherlands, Portugal and Spain

EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “Things are moving in the right direction, but the pace of change, to achieve greater openness and transparency, needs to increase. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant greater interest in vaccines and biomedical research from the public and the media, so it is time to talk about the part animals play in this research.”



EARA/EFPIA report stresses need for animal-derived antibodies in human and animal health

joint report by EARA and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), has challenged an EU expert group recommendation that calls for an end to the use of animals in antibody research, including Covid-19.
The report, also supported by AnimalhealthEurope, comes in response to the EURL ECVAM Recommendation on non-animal-derived antibodies published in May, and outlines the scientific reasons why animal-derived antibodies are still essential in many areas which are overlooked in the EU document.
The EARA/EFPIA report was produced by leading European scientists, who said switching to only non-animal-derived antibodies, ‘would have serious negative implications and impact on research, innovation and discovery of new life-saving drugs’ for patients and in animal health.
EARA executive director, Kirk Leech, said: “This report is a comprehensive evaluation of the vital importance of animal-derived antibodies and we hope that the Member states of the EU and the EU Commission considers the recommendations very carefully.”
The German Society for Immunology also issued a statement last week condemning the EURL ECVAM Recommendation and highlighted the many responses from other scientific societies., including the Spanish Nature Methods  paper supported by EARA.



A better way to handle fish used in research

In an important refinement, scientists in the UK have found a less invasive method to collect DNA from fish species.

The team at the University of Leicester and Nottingham Trent University, UK, compared skin swabbing as a method to collect DNA from sticklebacks and zebrafish, with the more usual fin clipping method.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, show that skin swabbing provided a less invasive method than fin clipping – which although it is a simple procedure can harm the fish.

The work was funded by the UK National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).



Genetic research and animal models in UK heart disease studies

The UK British Heart Foundation (BHF) charity has published a round-up of its current funded research to treat heart disease, including examples of the use of CRISPR and animal models.

Using the Nobel Prize-winning genetic scissors (CRISPR-Cas9), UK scientists are currently working on these projects:
  • At Imperial College London, researchers are using CRISPR in human blood vessel cells, and mice and rats, to study pulmonary arterial hypertension – a condition where the pressure in the blood vessels supplying the lungs rises, which can lead to heart failure.
  • With a zebrafish model, scientists at the University of Sheffield are using CRISPR to find out why mutations in genes can cause babies to be born with heart defects.
  • Scientists at the University of Oxford are using CRISPR to find out how to repair heart damage after injury in zebrafish and new-born mice.
  • Meanwhile, a team at University of Birmingham is using CRISPR to study thrombocytopenia – a condition where someone has low levels of platelets in their blood – in mice.



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