Lord Dowding Fund for humane research


National Antivisection Society

News in brief

2 February 2012

Human mirror neurons recorded for first time

Researchers at the Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Centre in the US have recorded the neurons in the brain that fire when we perform an action, or see others doing the same. The “mirror neurons” were recorded directly for the first time in humans during research involving 21 consenting patients undergoing treatment for epilepsy (ref 1). Single cell recordings are usually taken in animals, often primates. The current research discovered “two neural systems where mirroring responses at the single-cell level had not been recorded previously, not even in monkeys” (ref 1).

EU super computer

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) is an international non-profit association, enabling European researchers to access super fast computers located in other countries (ref 2). The PRACE infrastructure will allow the investigation of the way drugs interact with the human body and protein folding, for example. It could also help to gain knowledge about how to increase blood flow in cardiac disease, potentially predicting heart attacks and preventing deaths (ref 3).

Inhalation tests

Scientists are working to create technologically advanced alternatives to replace animals in inhalation studies. The results will be useful in drug development for humans.

Biological engineers at Harvard University have created a “microsystem” which mimics activity between the alveoli sacs of the lungs and their connected capillary blood vessels. The scientists have constructed the model in such a way that it is possible to apply a “cyclic mechanical strain” to the cells which mimics breathing in the whole lung (ref 4).

The researchers believe the new “lung-on-a-chip” model and other micro-devices may “expand the capabilities of cell culture models and provide low-cost alternatives to animal and clinical studies for drug screening and toxicology applications”.

1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412162112.
htm accessed 5/11/10
2. http://www.ehealthnews.eu/research
-infrastructure-for-european-researchers accessed 4/11/10
3. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/706&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en accessed 4/11/10
4. Huh, D et al (2010) “Reconstituting Organ-Level Lung Functions on a Chip” Science, vol. 328, pp: 1662 - 1668


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