One of the most effective ways that scientists can study human health conditions is through the use of human specimens. This approach is not only scientifically superior to the use of animal specimens, it is also more humane. Because of our commitment to advancing science without harming animals, NAVS is excited to see continued progress being made toward smarter, human-relevant research.
An article published in Science News last month highlights the value of human biological samples and what can be done with these important scientific resources. The article focused on a project based in Seattle which aims to link patients who are willing to donate brain tissue removed during surgery with scientists and neurosurgeons.
The brain tissue provided through this initiative is then experimented on at an amazingly quick pace. Just minutes after surgery, the brain tissue is transported to the research institute. Within an hour after surgery, it is sliced, preserved or kept alive for same-day experiments. Researchers are interested in learning more about the behavior and shape of the cells, as well as learning more about which genes were active in the cells of the brain tissue.
The experiments being performed are also helping to explain why some drugs work differently in human brains than they do in mouse brains. For example, some human neurons have h-channel proteins, which help cells respond to electrical signals. These proteins are rare in mice, however. These channels can be impacted by drugs, which may account for differences observed between the species.
The article further highlighted another important finding, noting that, “imprecise animal models have stymied research on schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s disease,” which is “why studying live, human tissue is so critical.”
NAVS has long recognized the limitations of using animal models to study neurodegenerative conditions and has been helping fund alternatives for this purpose, using a different approach, one which relies on creating 3D neuronal cultures derived from human stem cells.
Use of human-relevant models is providing valuable insight into human biology and disease and is producing results more quickly, cheaply and humanely than animal models.
Source: Sanders, L. “A Menagerie of Neurons: Studies of living brain cells aim to determine what sets humans apart,” Science News, August 17, 2019.