Inner space, the last frontier?

I love science. I love scientists for they are like writers exploring unknown territory, methodologically bringing us into new realities and fascinating discoveries. Things previously thought impossible or unknown to us simple mortals. Although most of us have no problem following a writer's story, when it comes to science it is not as easy. The story must be explained, put into context, potentially linked with other stories for it to make sense, in other words vulgarized. Nothing wrong with that but so necessary, else who would understand research and its importance?

If research is not explained the results are seen here and lay people make up their minds without your input. Decisions are made without asking about the consequences for what it is you do isn't known, ignored or even worse perceived as not important, vile or cruel. You might just be the next budget cut! Still think you can afford not to write about what it is you do, how and why? Will research be the next victim of NIMBY?

Yet research is and always has been the last frontier. Research looks for clues and attempts to answer questions. One such last frontier is inner space, like that found in our brains and the functioning thereof. Our most magical and yet least understood organ. Believe it or not, it is through the use of animals such as amongst others, worms (Caenorhabditis elegans), fruit flies (Drosophila), dogs (yes Beagles usually), rats and mice as well as non human primates, that progress is made. If you are following 'personalized medicine' and the need for better more effective treatments you realize that animal research will continue to be a critical part in the search for answers.  As is the case here in our fight against Malaria.

Image courtesy of Understanding Animal Research

Coming back to the brain's functioning this article explains how neuroscientists rely on rat studies , or default to rat studies as one understands later on, to  understand basic mechanisms.  As importantly the article underlines the importance of this research towards those that are paralyzed or missing limbs.
Particularly for individuals who have lost a limb or been partially or fully paralyzed, this work is a critical pursuit with potentially life-changing results — enabling such amazing biotechnological advances as the development of a brain-computer interface for controlling prosthetic limbs.
And warns us of the importance of other animal models such as chimpanzees and other non human primates in the paragraph called Ethological considerations (quoted below).
Image courtesy of Understanding Animal Research

Without an abundance of human subjects, scientists' next-best option for research is our closest relative, the chimpanzee; but since primate research is highly restricted, controversial, and prohibitively expensive, scientists often turn to studying other model organisms such as the rat. In many instances, data obtained from these model organisms can be translated to primate models and then to humans; but in such cases, scientists must make certain ethological considerations to ensure the validity of their conclusions.
If you or a relative of yours is affected by a disfunctioning , disease or disorder of the brain - in this regard did you know there are  more than 400 neurological disorders - you may just want to get active and voice your ongoing support towards animal research for medical progress hinges on it.

The least one can do is to sign the petition to make sure our scientists such as Jared Smith and Kevin Alloway continue to explore our inner space and to push the borders of this frontier for the benefit of those affected by Parkinson's, Alzheimers, those that are paraplegic or suffer from spinal cord injuries, have lost a limb etc... you get it the list is way too long and the needs so pressing! You can also join associations such as Americans for Medical Progress,  Canadians for Health Research or similar orgs around you to donate and support their activities.

As always and on behalf of a silent majority, thank you Jared and thank you Kevin. May the force be with you!



3 ways of dying

Dying with Alzheimer's is not a choice one makes.

Numbers have it that 13.8 million Americans will have Alzheimer's or some form of dementia by 2050. Currently that number is 5.2 million.
These aren't my numbers, I read them here on NBC's news blog. That is only for one country, the US.

Interestingly the FDA has a proposal out for comments to lower the bar on approving drugs for early stage of Alzheimer's Disease to treat people early before irreversable damage is done. This has caught the attention of the New York Times in this editorial. According to the article there is
no cure to Alzheimer's, in fact current drugs on the market only slow down the deterioration for some time.
The comments section of the article is really worth a read because people express how they or a close relative are affected by the disease. How their lives have changed, how useful it is to plan ahead and the value of having paid for medical care. As importantly are the comments towards accepting to lowering the bar towards FDA approval because we all want a cure even when we dont know the side effects of a potential cure or treatment. A lot of the comments come from elderly people or from those that have had a parent or other close relative affected by the disease. All agree to say that it is a terrible disease wether on drugs or not. Some if affected would enroll into clinical trials in a heart beat!
On the other hand FDA should also ask a high level of proof towards drug efficacy and safety, prior to allowing patients to be administered treatments. Sounds like sell your cake and have it too?  Maybe but in my opinion not incompatible aims. Wasn't the same done for AIDS/HIV ? Only time will tell, or will it be research? Guess where my support goes. Also time to tell our children why certain things such as animal research take place.

Another way of dying is by means of extinction. As above this is an unlikely choice. No one wants to go extinct obviously. Yet it happens. An inability to adapt or change to a new or changing environment. Over-exploitation by a predator for example, usually humans, or the consequences of an asteroid or comet impacting earth, a volcano that clouds the skies for weeks or months. Some want to repair or change the fate of those that disappear as one can read in this article. I don't know if this is really a good idea, restoring the past or recreating it for a present day environment. Sure research can help. Should we not nevertheless preserve habitat or change our attitudes towards preserving habitat? No use re-introducing wild life if there's no habitat for it.
Mass extinctions can also be the result of disease or plagues. These affect animals and humans. Research may find answers from those species and organisms we preserve and help all to thrive in the spirit of biodiversity and sustainable use.

Building knowledge through the sacrifice of animals, finding cures, treatments, food and clothing is most likely the hardest endeavour for mankind because we are aware of  what it takes.  Perhaps the early realization thereof has gotten some of us to think about good or bad, life and death, the need to thank those sacrificed, as it - the need to survive through killing animals - has been there from the start.  As we collectively try to make the world a better place it is worth our time to realize how we have gotten where we are at now, what it has taken and what it will continue to take, the sacrifice of animals for our collective survival. Unless as some suggest the world goes vegan (no offense to vegetarians) or animal sentiency (no offense to animals) primes human needs.  Neither of the three ways of dying is choosen, yet the last way, I think stands out for us all because it is by far the best way of using death to our common advantage in our quests to survival and saving or improving lives.



Lab Animal Europe , Faster cures and Recherche Animale

Lab Animal Europe | Volume 13, No. 2 | March 2013

Pleased to share with you my latest article that appeared in the March issue of Lab Animal Europe.

The reason why animal research matters is because we all need cures ! For Some Time = Life. For others animal research needs to be stopped!

Take TWO minutes of your time to listen to those for whom medical research and progress really matters.

Et pour mes amis francophones de par le monde, voici la fabuleuse histoire de James ou comment expliquer la naissance d'un médicament qui un jour peut-être sauvera des vies. Un processus qui inclut la recherche animale, of course! Pour ceux qui souhaitent lire les avancées médicales obtenues par la voie de la recherche animale, veuillez suivre ce lien et découvrir le site recherche-animale.org


Paralysed woman moves robot with mind and some help from NHP+pigs!

Always amazed when I read about animal research contributions to improving our lives or in helping us detect impacts on our health.

Here's two examples, one of which I included the video thereof in the 'worth a view' page of my blog:

  1. Brown University creates first wireless, implanted brain-computer interface  
  2. BPA may affect developing brain by disrupting gene regulation - Duke University 

Actually the smile on the wheelchair bound woman is worth so much I can hardly put words to it. I do hope however that those of you who are involved in animal research find some solace against all the hardship others bring onto you. As always you have my heartfelt thank you!

To many, research means hope! To others it is described as torture, cruelty, useless and the list goes on. I have said and wrote this before: animal research is not a zero sum equation. No, animal research is about medical progress we all benefit from. Here's one on asthma and the use of mice.  An article about a molecule that could lead to better drugs for millions.

Young students in the US are grasping the importance and necessity of animal research  more easily as you can find out here on this wonderful blog called Curious Young Writers:
A collection of high school student stories featuring uncommon animals that are helping researchers find better answers to some age-old health questions.

Read their latest post called Chinchillas: Todays Heroes!

And if you do agree with me - take two minutes of your time and sign my online petition towards medical progress through science and animal research. For your voice matters, it must be heard and counted!