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August 25, 2023
Funding alternatives, training chimps for emergencies, and more
Funding Alternatives to Replace Animals in Research
AAVS is thrilled to share that our affiliate, the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation (ARDF), has announced its 2023 Annual Open Grant recipients, awarding $270,000 to seven projects to develop alternatives that have great potential to replace animals in research and testing. The projects focus on a wide range of diseases and conditions, including important but overlooked topics.
Two recipients will use donated human tissue to investigate human disease progression and treatment. Researchers at the American Dental Association’s Science & Research Institute will use gingival slices to develop a non-animal model for studying oral inflammatory diseases, while scientists at Johns Hopkins University will use lung tissue to study the relationship between cigarette smoke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as potential treatments.
Another study at Johns Hopkins will use “mini-brain” organoids to investigate how endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with hormone function) alter brain activity. Researchers in Berlin will refine a human cell-based 3D model of a bone fracture to study how bones heal. And in Brussels, scientists will use a liver-based cell culture system to study the potential toxic effects of microplastics on the liver.
Two other ARDF-funded projects are developing human organ models to improve the drug discovery process. Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the University of California, San Francisco will use a heart model to test drugs with known side-effects in order to study their interactions with alcohol. At the University of Washington, researchers are creating a pancreas model to study Type 1 diabetes and identify new treatments.
This year’s focus on funding models that aid the development of treatments underscores the tremendous potential of alternative methods for biomedical research. By supporting such research, ARDF continues to advance both animal welfare and human health.
August is Make-a-Will Month, and AAVS has some tools to help if you want to be sure that animals in labs benefit from our informed and dedicated advocacy. And did you know that AAVS Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) rates went up this year? A CGA allows you to receive regular income and tax benefits after an initial gift. These and other estate planning ideas can be found on our website. It feels good to have a plan!
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When there’s an emergency, we humans know to contact 911 or move to safety. But what if you’re a chimpanzee in a sanctuary? At the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Louisiana, chimpanzees are being taught to react to specific auditory cues, like a cowbell or bike alarm, that tell the chimps to move indoors where they will be safe and secure.
Over the past few years, Chimp Haven has experienced severe weather events that prompted the sanctuary to create an emergency behavioral training plan for its more than 300 chimps, living in 30 family groups. Currently, 65 chimps in five groups are in different stages of training.
It’s a slow process that requires dedication and patience. Each family has its unique alarm. Trainers use the chimps’ favorite foods to first desensitize them to their alarm and then to entice them indoors. Chimps who come inside when they hear their alarm find a buffet of treats, including popsicles! The training continues so the chimpanzees can improve their time in getting to safety.
The training program was highlighted in a New York Times article which described the extraordinary dedication of the care staff in responding to a recent serious weather event.
Chimp Haven is a long-time recipient of AAVS grants, and we are so grateful for the wonderful efforts being made to keep the chimpanzees there safe. You can check out the New York Times story from Chimp Haven’s Facebook page.