Nature News features University of Wisconsin–Madison virologist David O’Connor on the importance of animals to learning how a virus infects cells, how the immune systems responds, and how the virus spreads to new hosts.
Once among the more exotic branches of the animal kingdom, octopuses and other cephalopods are of growing interest to animal researchers. NPR’s All Things Considered reports on the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
When the Environmental Protection Agency banned polychlorinated biphenyls — industrial compounds once used widely in coolants and electrical insulators — in April of 1979, they were relying on the results of studies in animals that linked PCBs to dire health consequences including cancer, problems with conception, disruption of the nutrients in maternal milk and reduced cognitive abilities in offspring. Much of that work was done studying monkeys at the Wisconsin National Primate Center, and UW–Madison findings informed reference levels for PCB contamination that still guide cleanup at sites around the United States.
Hannah Carey’s lab studies how hibernating squirrels slow their metabolisms to fall into their seasonal torpor — and then speed it back up to go about their squirrel lives during the warm months. Her work could help humans extreme in extreme conditions. But the trick to studying hibernation is that happens when it happens, and disrupting scheduled research for an unscheduled government shutdown — as Carey, a comparative bioscience professor, explains in Scientific American — could cost taxpayers the fruits of the science they’re funding.
University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers study animals, including monkeys like the one depicted in an advertisement on a Madison bus, to learn about human disease and to explore basic biological processes. Alternatives to animals are always considered before research begins, and whenever possible methods without animals are used. However, animals remain the only way to study many vital aspects of human and animal health. UW–Madison scientists rely on animal studies to design new treatments and advance our knowledge of AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dangerous infections like influenza, many types of cancer and more. All animal research on campus includes the attention of skilled veterinarians. All animal research is closely reviewed and regulated by our animal care and use committee and several federal agencies. Everyone benefits from what scientists have learned from these studies. Where there is a better way, UW–Madison researchers use it. To exclude animals from research would leave us without …
UW–Madison is one of three universities enrolling hundreds of pet dogs in a trial of a single vaccine intended to prevent all types of cancer — a leading cause of death in dogs.