A coalition of 40 organizations representing the scientific, veterinary and conservation communities are partnering to advocate for the protection of long- tailed macaque monkeys – both in captivity and in the wild. Their recommendations seek to ensure the healthy continuation of this species within natural habitats and to protect future medical advancements that benefit humans and animals alike.
Our Curious Science Writers are not only curious, they’re also remarkable students!
High school student Tara Prakash attended last year’s science writing Boot Camp. Afterwards she wrote an article about nonhuman primate research aimed at helping us better understand and treat autism, a story which should hit the cSw website in the near future. Tara also authored a blog post about the 2022 Boot Camp, providing future prospective students with an inside view.
But that’s not all!
Last month the Journal of Student Research published a scientific article authored by Tara. The title: “Zebrafish Demystify Human Skin Color Variation and Develop a Basis for Pigmentation.” The full article is posted online (no membership required). You can find it at this link.
Based on all indicators, Biomedical Research Awareness Day 2023 was another smashing success. Once again, we witnessed broad, worldwide participation including:
- More than 230 registered events around the world, topping all previous records and making 2023 the biggest BRAD to date.
- International participation in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Pakistan, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and Germany.
- A wide variety of engaging and educational events such as lectures, facility tours, information booths, classroom visits, interactive games for staff and attendees, online engagement, distribution of educational materials, giveaways and more.
- Over 700 registrations for this year’s official BRAD webinar featuring Dr. Tania Roth of the University of Delaware. In many cases, groups ranging from 10 to over 150 people gathered to watch the event.
We’ve highlighted several regional celebrations on the BRAD Facebook page. We were also pleased to see several posts from research organizations taking part in the annual event as well.
Here’s a brief video highlighting just a few of the hundreds of celebrations worldwide:
Don’t forget that Biomedical Research Awareness Day was designed to take place any time of the year. So if your institution was unable to participate on April 20th, you don’t have to wait another 12 months! Plenty of free resources, including several newly developed items, can be found on the BRAD website.
Finally, one more big thank you to all of our 2023 sponsors:
We could not have done it without you!
Thursday April 20th, 2023 was Biomedical Research Awareness Day. We hope many of you work at institutions that take part in this increasingly popular outreach and education event created by AMP.
If you didn’t have a chance to attend a BRAD activity, it’s not too late. This year’s BRAD webinar is available via replay. Just click this link and fill out the registration form to watch it.
This year’s presenter is Tania Roth, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Delaware. She explains how nonhuman animals provide vital information that helps us understand how early-life experiences can significantly affect development and lifelong health. This year’s webinar also includes a rat tickling demonstration by Megan Gerhardt of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which is AstraZeneca’s Rare Disease Unit.
We hope you can find the time to watch this outstanding presentation.
Tuesday , May 2, 12 p.m. ET
Post-COVID Challenges, Hurdles and Solutions in Lab Animal Care Settings
COVID-19 has ushered in several life-changing impacts, especially within biomedical research settings. And many of the pandemic’s effects continue today. These include:
- Continued recruitment and retention issues.
- Engagement problems created by the increased use of online meetings.
- Morale challenges that surfaced during the pandemic and continue to exist.
- Training issues: In-person vs. online and additional technology hurdles.
- Supply shortages, supply chain problems.
AMP will host a panel discussion with senior lab animal experts in both academic and business settings to discuss how they’ve addressed and continue to manage these issues using creative strategies, many of which will likely assist a wide range of research organizations.
Audience members will be invited to share their own, additional post-COVID challenges for an open discussion about possible solutions.
Click this link to sign up. Note: Please sign up using a work-associated email address so that we can verify you are affiliated with a biomedical-science organization.
All of us at Americans for Medical Progress, employees and board members alike, are mourning the loss of former AMP Board of Directors Chair Dr. John Young, VMD, MS, DACLAM. For several years, John played a pivotal and transformative role in AMP’s efforts. He died on Sunday, March 19th at the age of 65.
John served as AMP’s Board chair for over a decade, from 2001 to 2012 after he initially accepted a role on the board in 1999. In addition to guiding the organization for many years, including the turbulent 2007 – 2008 global financial crisis, he assisted in the development of several exciting new initiatives created to support and protect biomedical research. He also played a prominent role in AMP’s advocacy programs on several occasions. Many of you have likely viewed his guided video tour of the Cedars Sinai Medical Center animal care facility that John managed for many years. The video was viewed as a transformative step forward for lab animal education. It was initially distributed by AMP on DVD. Nowadays, you can also find it on AMP’s YouTube channel and at other online locations as well. AMP’s YouTube upload has achieved over 100,000 views and continues to garner more each year. John also regularly spoke with school students about the necessary role of animals in ensuring continued medical advancements.
As for John’s academic and professional career, after graduating from Penn State in 1979, he attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania. He then moved to Los Angeles where he worked at the Sepulveda VA Medical Center as Director of the Animal Research facility. He arrived at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in 1989 where he served in a variety of roles and eventually retired in 2021 as Executive Director of Comparative Medicine and Assistant Dean of Education.
He served for many years in a number of leadership roles for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). He was also the recipient of several honors and awards including the President’s Award at Cedars Sinai and the Special Contributions Award at VAMC Long Beach. He authored peer reviewed publications, presented at international conferences and even helped found the POOCH (Pet Therapy) program at Cedars Sinai.
As we remember John, we again thank him for all of his outstanding contributions to laboratory animal medicine and public education. A memorial page with additional information about John containing photos and a chance to post memories can be found at this link. We invite you to join us in honoring him and his lasting legacy.
The Federation for American Societies for Experimental Biology is hosting a webinar on April 12 to summarize a new report on the current status of the animal rights movement and strategies for protecting current and future studies. The report was authored by Americans for Medical Progress, FASEB, the Foundation for Biomedical Research and the National Association for Biomedical Research. It’s titled Animal Research Activism: Update and Recommendations to Promote Communication, Transparency, and Public Outreach About Animal Research and can be downloaded at this link.
During the free, one-hour webinar, representatives from all four author organizations will collaboratively:
- Examine both new and longstanding tactics employed by animal rights groups.
- Propose proactive and reactive strategies (communications, legislative, etc.) to counter the damaging impacts of animal rights campaigns.
- Offer recommendations to improve or expand communications, education and public outreach about animal research.
Click this link to register for this presentation which will be followed by a Q&A session.
A new report authored by Americans for Medical Progress, FASEB, the Foundation for Biomedical Research and the National Association for Biomedical Research provides updates and advice aimed at countering animal rights activism and the serious threat it poses to future progress. The document is titled “Animal Research Activism: Update and Recommendations to Promote Communication, Transparency, and Public Outreach About Animal Research.” It was created to educate the animal research community about the evolving threat of animal rights activism, encourage stakeholders to improve communication/outreach efforts and provide specific advice in doing so.
The report is organized into three main areas:
- An examination of both new and longstanding tactics employed by animal rights groups.
- Some proposed proactive and reactive strategies (communications, legislative, etc.) to counter the damaging impacts of animal rights campaigns.
- Specific recommendations to improve or expand communication, education and public outreach about animal research.
Seattle, WA – Five members of a University of Washington committee responsible for reviewing all animal-based research proposals have filed a federal lawsuit against the university seeking to protect themselves, their families and their colleagues from escalating hostility and harassment from activists who oppose animal research.
The five Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) members are asking the courts to block attempts by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to obtain their identities and also the names of more than 70 of their fellow colleagues who either currently serve or have served on the University of Washington IACUC committee.
This request comes in the wake of several troubling incidents highlighted in court filings. These include:
- The recent harassment of a University of Washington faculty member at home by a group of protestors. The gathering was organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the same group that is now requesting the names of additional University of Washington IACUC members as well as alternate and previous committee members.
- Several threatening emails, letters and voice messages to university staff that have, among other things, referred to health researchers who work with animals as “vile [expletive] humans” adding “I’m going to do what is necessary to stop animal research.”
- A series of hostile/menacing comments recently made by members of the public attending UW IACUC meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic via Zoom. During these meetings, University of Washington labs have been likened to “Auschwitz”, and members of the university IACUC have been compared to “Nazis” and deemed “sadistic”. Note: Individual committee member names are not displayed during these meetings for personal safety and security reasons.
In recent days, several politically charged news stories and social media posts have surfaced in regards to infectious disease research conducted in dogs. Sadly, in many instances, incorrect, incomplete and/or misleading information is being circulated, leading to significant public confusion. Americans for Medical Progress has constructed the following Q&A in order to provide accurate answers to some of the most common questions that have been raised.
What is this all about?
Recent news stories and social media posts have focused on a small collection of studies to combat two separate tropical diseases. Each of these serious diseases threaten both human and animal health. One disease that is being studied is called leishmaniasis. The other is called lymphatic filariasis.
What is leishmaniasis?
Leishmaniasis is caused by a microscopic parasite named Leishmania infantum. Symptoms for infected patients might include skin sores, fever and the swelling of internal organs. In severe cases, the condition can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leishmaniasis infections can be found in approximately 90 countries throughout the tropics, subtropics and southern Europe. In Northern Africa, where the disease is commonly found, leishmaniasis mainly impacts children under the age of five. Leishmaniasis also poses a threat to U.S. troops and other personnel, as well as U.S. military dogs, living in areas where the disease is endemic.
Leishmaniasis is spread by sand flies which serve as the vector (or mode of transportation) for the Leishmania infantum parasite. Domesticated dogs often serve as a natural reservoir for the disease, meaning that human infections can occur when the parasite is passed from infected dogs to humans via sand fly bites.
What is lymphatic filariasis?
The second disease referenced in recent news stories and social media posts is lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as elephantiasis.
Like leishmaniasis, LF is also caused by a parasite transmitted by insects. In this case, the parasite is spread by mosquitos. It is a dangerous, worm-like organism that can cause disease in both humans and dogs. It is the second leading cause of human disability in impacted countries. Those who are disfigured are frequently unable to work because of their disability.
Can these diseases be prevented with vaccines?
No approved vaccine currently exists to prevent leishmaniasis or lymphatic filariasis infections. However, efforts to develop vaccines to protect both humans and dogs are underway. A brief summary of some of this research can be found below.
Why must dogs be studied for leishmaniasis research?
Dogs are involved in leishmaniasis research because they are a natural reservoir for the disease. The parasite also threatens the health of dogs. The Leishmania infantum parasite often spreads when a sand fly first bites an infected dog followed by a human. The presence of parasite-infected dogs allows the disease to persist and infect additional humans and animals.
Why must dogs be studied for lymphatic filariasis research?
As mentioned previously, the parasite behind LF can cause serious disease in both humans and dogs. As a result, both species benefit from animal-based studies.
What is the purpose of the research mentioned in news stories and social media posts?
Recent news stories and social media posts focus on a combination of three research projects attempting to combat both leishmaniasis and lymphatic filariasis. Two of these studies were supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. However, the third was not.
In one study – leishmaniasis research that has incorrectly been attributed to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – scientists were seeking to better understand how the Leishmania infantum bacteria is transmitted between dogs and humans. This information can now be used to develop strategies to prevent parasitic infections in both humans and animals, better control the disease in impacted species, prevent disease-related disabilities and save lives.
A second study – which was financially supported by the NIAID – is assisting in the development of a leishmaniasis vaccine aimed at preventing disease in both dogs and humans. In this NIAID-study, twelve dogs were immunized with an experimental vaccine at the Pasteur Institute of Tunis. The dogs were then let out in an enclosed open space during the day, during sand fly season in an area of Tunisia where canine leishmaniasis can be commonly found. The goal of the research was to determine if the experimental vaccine prevented the dogs from becoming infected in a natural setting. Because leishmaniasis is commonly transmitted from dogs to humans and because the disease threatens the health of dogs, canines were logically necessary for this research aimed at reducing the spread of this serious disease. At the same time, the project was designed to ensure the involved animals experienced no discomfort.
The third research project is aimed at combating lymphatic filariasis. That study took place at the University of Georgia and it was also supported by the NIAID. This research focuses on a vaccine candidate which could potentially be used to prevent lymphatic filariasis in humans, as well as other parasitic infections, including heartworm, in dogs. Because lymphatic filariasis infections pose serious risks to both humans and dogs, studies in canines are both logical and necessary.
Did the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases fund the research shown in images being distributed by news outlets and social media posts
No. The images of beagles in several news stories and social media posts were taken from an article published by the medical journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases in July 2021. However, the manuscript mistakenly stated that financial support for the research had been provided by the National Institutes of Health. Neither the NIAID nor any other institute within the NIH supported this specific research project.
Here’s a link to a correction posted by the journal. A screenshot of the statement can be found below.
Question: Do dogs involved in research frequently have their vocal cords removed?
A vocal cordectomy, also known as debarking or bark softening, is occasionally performed on dogs living in either a home or research setting. It is a surgical procedure, performed by a veterinarian on an anesthetized animal, where tissue is removed from the vocal cords to permanently reduce the volume of its vocalizations. The surgery does not hurt the animals. In research settings, it may be used where numerous dogs are present. This procedure is done to reduce noise, which is not only stressful to the animals but can also reach decibel levels that exceed OSHA allowable limits for people and can lead to hearing loss.
Question: When it comes to animal research in the United States, are there any regulations or policies in place to ensure the animals are well cared for?
There are extensive regulations and measures in place in the United States to ensure the ethical treatment of animals involved in health research. These include, but are not limited to: a large collection of animal welfare laws known as the Animal Welfare Act, USDA oversight via unannounced inspections of research facilities, strict guidelines for federally funded research, onsite veterinary oversight and frequent accreditation requirements.
In specific regard to NIH-funded research, animals are protected by laws, regulations and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their welfare. Institutions that receive research funds, including those located in other countries, must conduct animal-involved studies in accordance with the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The proposed use of animals in research is evaluated during peer review for both contract and grant proposals and animals used in research are to be provided with appropriate anesthesia and veterinary care. The principles for what is — and is not — allowed are governed both by regulations administered by the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and the grantee institution’s animal care and use committee (IACUC)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases