April 1, 2024

Every day, the seven National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) conduct and enable collaborative research studies to improve human and animal health. For more than five years now, we’ve been sharing our latest news and scientific advancements with you via NPRC.org and @NPRCnews (X), and there’s more coming your way. 

To ensure the NPRCs provide the topics of most interest to our readers and followers, we looked back at your favorite stories to help us move forward. Your top interests span behavior and psychology, infectious disease and neuroscience and brain disorders research. We will continue to share news that represents what you have most enjoyed, and we will also bring you information that reflects the breadth and depth of research across the NPRC network.   

We appreciate our readers and followers, and encourage you to take another look at your favorite blogs about NPRC research, to share the information with your family, friends and colleagues, and to continue connecting with us via NPRC.org, @NPRCnews and, now, on the new NPRC LinkedIn account. Via these resources, you’ll always be able to access the latest news on NPRC research that is helping people across generations and around the world live longer, healthier lives.   


Behavior and Psychology 

  1. The Effects of Wildfire Smoke Exposure in Early Pregnancy 

A study by California NPRC and UC Davis researchers investigated the effects of wildfire smoke exposure on infant monkeys during early pregnancy. The study found that exposure led to increased inflammation, reduced stress response, memory deficits and a more passive temperament in the monkeys. The findings suggest environmental changes during pregnancy can have lasting effects on offspring.  


Infectious Disease 

2. A Deadly Relationship: Stopping the Progression of Tuberculosis in HIV Patients   

Researchers at the Southwest National Primate Research Center have discovered chronic immune activation in the lungs plays a crucial role in the progression of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV co-infection. This dysfunction hampers the body’s ability to fight off infections. The study suggests the need to develop treatments targeting chronic immune activation alongside antiretroviral therapy (ART). TB and HIV are global pandemics that reinforce each other, affecting a significant portion of the world’s population. The findings offer hope for improved treatment strategies in the next decade. 

3. New Possible Correlation Between Lyme Disease and Lewy Body Dementia  

At Tulane National Primate Research Center, researchers discovered intact spirochetes of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, in the central nervous system of a 69-year-old woman who received multiple rounds of antibiotic treatment. The presence of this bacterium coupled with her persistent neurological decline raises the possibility of a correlation between Lyme disease and Lewy body dementia. This finding highlights the bacterium’s persistence despite targeted therapy and emphasizes the need for further research to comprehend its role in severe neurological conditions. 

4. Are DNA Vaccinations a Perennial Answer to the Flu?  

Researchers at the Washington National Primate Research Center are developing a universal flu vaccine that could protect against all strains of the influenza virus. Using a DNA vaccine administered through the skin, the team has achieved promising results in macaques, providing 100% protection against a previous flu virus. This approach could eliminate the need for annual flu shots and be quickly deployed during pandemics. The researchers believe this technology could also be effective against other viruses and outbreaks. 


Neuroscience & Brain Disorders 

5. Past Social Experiences May Affect Brain’s Response to Oxytocin

A study at the Emory (formerly Yerkes) National Primate Research Center and Emory University showed the response of neurons to oxytocin, a chemical involved in social bonding, can vary based on an individual’s past experiences. Using female prairie voles, the researchers examined the nucleus accumbens, a brain region related to pair bonding. They found that oxytocin reduced neuron firing before bonding and increased it afterward, when triggered. The study also revealed a connection between oxytocin signals and endocannabinoids, affecting defensive interactions. These findings provide insights into how prior experiences influence oxytocin’s impact on brain circuits. 

6. NPRC Study May Have Found Link That Causes Anxiety and Depression  

Researchers at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered brain pathways in juvenile monkeys that could contribute to anxiety and depression later in life. By studying the connections between specific brain regions, they found a correlation between synchronization and anxious temperament. These findings may lead to better treatment approaches and help identify gene alterations associated with anxiety. 

7. The Drinking Gene: Could Alcoholism Be Inherited?  

Research conducted at Oregon National Primate Research Center has identified a gene, GPR39, as a potential target for developing medication to prevent and treat alcoholism. By modifying protein levels encoded by this gene in mice, the researchers observed a significant reduction in alcohol consumption. They also found a link between alcohol and the activity of this gene. The study draws attention to the importance of cross-species approaches to identify drugs for treating alcohol use disorder. Further investigations are under way to determine if the same mechanism applies to humans. These findings offer potential insights for developing drugs to address chronic alcoholism and mood disorders. 

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