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Benefits of research involving animals

One of the principal aims of our biomedical research is to improve the quality of life of people across the world by helping to alleviate disease and suffering. Research involving animals is fundamental to understanding how we are affected by disease and is often the only way to develop new treatments and medicines, and check they are safe for humans.

Scientists at Manchester have contributed to the prevention, treatment and eradication of a wide range of medical conditions and diseases. Some notable recent discoveries include:

Body clocks linked to chronic lung diseases 

Scientists at The University of Manchester discovered that the body clock’s natural rhythm could be used to improve current therapies to delay the onset of chronic lung diseases.

In a study using mice, the scientists found a rhythmic defence pathway in the lung that is controlled by the body clock and is essential to combat daily exposure to toxins and pollutants.

The team’s groundbreaking research gives an indication of more suitable times of the day for drugs to be administered to patients suffering from oxidative/fibrotic diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Silent stroke can cause Parkinson's disease

Researchers at the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences have for the first time identified why a patient who appears outwardly healthy may develop Parkinson’s disease.

While conditions such as a severe stroke have been linked to the disease, for many sufferers the tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can appear to come out of the blue. Scientists have now discovered that a small stroke, also known as a silent stroke, can cause the disease.

In a study using mice, it appeared that one of the lasting effects of a silent stroke can be the death of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra in the brain, which is an important region for movement coordination.  

Weight loss helps to oust intestinal worms

Scientists from The University of Manchester have discovered that weight loss plays an important role in the body’s response to fighting off intestinal worms.

The findings show that the immune system hijacks the natural feeding pathways causing weight loss. This then drives the defence mechanisms down the correct pathway to expel the worms.

Scientists from the Manchester Immunology Group and the Institute of Inflammation and Repair studied the immune response system in mice that were lacking immune cells and feeding hormones.

Zebrafish 'window on cancer' shows birth of tumour - and body's response

Scientists using translucent zebrafish as a 'window on cancer' have been able to see in real time how tumour cells are born – and immediately attract cells from the immune system.

This inflammatory response seems to both attack and aid the cancer cells and the balance between the two provides a new therapeutic target for cancer researchers. It also links cancer to the wound healing process, which may even lead to anti-inflammatory drugs being used to treat cancer patients.

New insights into tendon injury

Scientists have discovered how tendons – the fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone – become damaged through injury or the ageing process in what could lead to new treatments for people with tendon problems.

The University of Manchester team, working with colleagues at Glasgow University, have been investigating 'adhesions', which are a build-up of unwanted fibrous tissue on internal organs that have been damaged as a result of surgery or injury. Adhesions cause organs to stick together and are extremely painful and distressing for patients, who often have to undergo surgery and rehabilitation. The estimated cost of adhesions to the NHS is £100m each year.

The team were able to show that mice with defective cells at the surface of their tendons appeared to have difficulty walking and spontaneously develop tendon adhesions, even without surgery or injury.

A natural way to curb your greed

University of Manchester scientists have discovered a naturally occurring appetite suppressant that could be used to make a diet drug without side effects.

They believe the peptide hemopressin, which affects the reward part of the brain responsible for hedonistic behaviour, might treat some aspects of alcohol and drug abuse.

The scientists in the Faculty of Life Sciences gave mice hemopressin and monitored feeding and other behaviours. They found that while feeding behaviour decreased, importantly, other behaviours were not affected by the natural antagonist.