While scientists have for years used mice, rats, monkeys and other animals in horrific brain experiments to try to derive explanations for the human craving for sweets, such experiments are unnecessary and inapplicable. In a new study, scientists used human volunteers and non-invasive brain imaging to investigate how sugar impacts the brain’s dopaminergic system.
Other recent advances in research without animals include a biomimetic model composed of human cells to study wounds and burns; human-derived cell cultures and skin explant models instead of infecting animals to reveal a possible new drug treatment for mpox; and using high resolution spectroscopy to gain important insights into treating deadly C. difficile infections.
Sweets change our brain
Researchers from Yale University and the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne, conducted a human-based study to learn more about the impact of sweets and fat on the human brain.
Volunteers were divided into two groups; one received a small pudding cup with high fat and sugar levels daily for eight weeks while the other group consumed an alternative pudding cup with equal calories but less sugar and fat.
At the end of the study, brain activity measurements using functional MRI showed that the high-fat and high-sugar foods activated the dopaminergic brain system, the region associated with motivation and reward. The authors determined that the brain therefore learns to prefer such foods.
Simulating cuts and burns reveals wound healing and clearing power of fibroblasts
Researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities created a biomimetic model to study wound healing. Because the model is human-based and derived from human cells, it is more accurate than animals and far more humane.
Researchers created an in vitro model consisting of fibroblasts in a collagen hydrogel. They created two types of wounds in the model; lacerations and burns. They found that because laceration wounds are well-connected to blood, they heal more quickly. Burns, however, have large amounts of dead tissue that gets in the way of the healing process, resulting in cauterized blood vessels that slow the healing process down.
The study suggests that burn healing could be improved with therapies that accelerate wound clearance, such as genetically engineered white blood cells designed to remove dead tissue.
Known active ingredient as new drug candidate against mpox
An international team led by researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt, the Dr. Petra Joh-Research Institute and the University of Kent used human-based methods instead of cruel and inapplicable animal tests to study the rapidly spreading mpox, the virus formally known as monkeypox.
Although some antivirals can inhibit the replication of mpox, they have side effects and there are low stocks. Using human-derived cell cultures and skin explant models, researchers examined the efficacy of existing drugs and found that the antibiotic nitroxoline showed promise to treat mpox.
Because nitroxoline is already approved for use in humans and well-tolerated, it’s an excellent choice for fighting mpox.
Researchers uncover metabolic secrets of anaerobes and identify new strategies to treat C. difficile infections
Clostridiodes difficile, a serious and hard to treat intestinal microorganism, is the leading cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and hospital-acquired infections, but has been difficult to study because of a lack of adequate models.
Now, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) used innovative, nonanimal technology to learn more.
They combined computational predictions with high-resolution magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (HRMAS NMR) to explore the real-time metabolism of cells living in anaerobic conditions. By tracking carbon and nitrogen flow in the anaerobic environment, they discovered metabolic processes by which C. difficile quickly colonizes the gut, as well as potential new targets for therapeutics.
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