November 10, 2015
HSI’s “BioMed21” Highlights Human Biology-Based Science
Prof. Alysson Muotri, world specialist on autism, presents groundbreaking research
Humane Society International launched its first BioMed21 — short for “Biomedical Research for the 21st Century” — event on October 22 in the Commission of Science and Technology of the Brazilian Senate with University of California-San Diego Professor Alysson Muotri, a world-renowned expert on autism and advocate of human biology-based methods in brain research. The public hearing, chaired by Senator Helio José, also included Dr. Marcelo Morales from the CNPq, Brazil’s largest science funding agency, and Helder Constantino, HSI’s Brazil campaign manager for research and toxicology.
Convinced that reliance on artificial animal models of autism has impeded progress toward understanding the mechanisms behind the disease, Prof. Muotri pioneered the use of human stem cells in culture to recreate early stages of brain development in people. He explained to Brazilian senators and research funders how these “mini-brains” can be used to better understand complex human disorders and provide a fast-track platform to screen and test new therapies. Using this technique, Prof Muotri has obtained groundbreaking results in the treatment of autism without harming animals. For example, a promising treatment for Rett syndrome, a rare form of autism discovered by Prof. Muotri using this approach, is currently undergoing clinical trials.
The event also served as a launch for the new HSI scientific report, Advancing Safety Science and Health Research in Brazil. The report calls for strategic public and private investments in emerging human biology-based research and testing techniques such as the ones used by Prof. Muotri. Animal-based research is quickly being surpassed by innovative human-relevant tools such as bioengineered organs-on-a-chip, robot-automated high-throughput human cell and gene tests, and next-generation computer modeling. These new technologies could hold the key to unlocking cures and improving therapies for some of world’s major diseases.
Biomed21 is a global initiative led by HSI to re-orient research funding away from outdated and failing animal methods and towards human biology-based methods worldwide. It has received the support of leading scientists, who have identified specific areas where the animal model has been unproductive and even delayed our understanding of certain diseases and conditions. Animal models are widely used in Brazil and worldwide to try to mirror human diseases by artificially creating symptoms in animals, but with significant scientific limitations. Very often, the symptoms and responses to potential treatments seen in other species are dissimilar to those of human patients, due to intrinsic species differences. In the context of rising costs for discovering new drugs, HSI is calling for strategic investment towards more efficient, human-relevant techniques. Sign up to receive news from HSI and please consider donating to support our vital work.