10 de Janeiro de 2022

EARA News Digest 2022 - Week 2

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

Flies give insights on eye disease 

Research in Portugal has taken a step forward in understanding blindness, through the eyes of fruit flies.  

Retinitis pigmentosa – an eye disease which causes progressive degeneration of the retina and vision loss - is a major cause of human blindness.  

A team from ITQB NOVA and EARA member Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, has now identified a way to produce rhodopsin – a protein that is crucial for animal sight. 

The study, published in EMBO Reports, used fruit flies and human cells as models, to better understand how the production of rhodopsin is regulated.  

The work included a collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford, UK, and the Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechia. 



Animal research improves understanding of Omicron variant

Recent animal research on the Covid-19 Omicron variant is helping scientists understand how the virus spreads and causes disease.
Researchers at EARA member KU Leuven, Belgium, found that Syrian hamsters (an animal susceptible to infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus) who were exposed to Omicron variant, had lower levels of virus and less disease than seen with other variants.
While in another study, reported in the New York Times, - based on research in mice and hamsters - a team of Japanese and US scientists found that the Omicron variant had less of an effect on the lungs than previous mutations.
Their findings echoed similar results found by the University of Hong Kong, China, using samples of human tissue taken from the airways and lungs, where Omicron grew more slowly in lung tissues.
These results, which are all pre-print papers and have not been peer reviewed, will now be followed up in experiments with monkeys, as well as analysis of patients with Omicron, but could go some way to explaining why the variant seems to be less likely to require hospitalisation.



A better tool to track how nanoparticles deliver drug treatments 

A new tool, developed by US researchers, could help to measure how effectively nanoparticles can deliver drugs to a patient’s cells.
Cutting-edge technology means nanoparticles can be used to deliver drugs to very specific areas of the body, but currently, scientists can only see whether the nanoparticle has reached its target cell, not if the contents of the particle have been properly released.
A team at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Maryland, USA, used a colour-coded system developed in mouse cells, and tested in live mice, to follow which cells had been exposed to the drug by labelling them with a fluorescent gene which can be tracked around the body.
“This [technology] would allow us to develop more precisely delivered therapies, which could improve both efficacy and safety,” said author Dr Jordan Green.



Studying brain cancer using fewer mice 

Scientists at Uppsala University, Sweden, have created a new way to study brain cancer tumours and partly replace the use of mice models with zebrafish. 

In the findings, published in Neuro-Oncology, cancer cells were transplanted from patients into zebrafish embryos, and then artificial intelligence analysed any tumour growth and the progress of treatment. 

Professor Sven Nelander, who led the study, explained that not all cancer cells can grow in mouse models: “We saw that the cells that didn’t grow in zebrafish didn’t grow in mice either. If the method can be used to predict how cells will function in mice, we can reduce the number of mice that are used in other studies.” 

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