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Currently Approved VA Protocols for Research with Animals

VA is committed to supporting the research that is needed to improve medical care for Veterans. There is far more research that needs to be done than VA can support, so VA selects the work that is most likely to be valuable. Of all the research that is proposed, typically about 20% gets selected by scientific subject matter experts as scientifically valid and of highest priority for funding. Of that, more than half is research that is best done with human subjects, computer models, analysis of existing data, or collection of data from biological systems other than vertebrate animals. Of the remaining less than half that depends on work with living non-human vertebrate animals, over 99% is done with rats and mice. Less than 5% of that last 1% of the research that depends on living vertebrate animals involves dogs, cats, or nonhuman primates, as shown in the figure below:

VA research with animals

All VA research with animals is subject to careful review and oversight, but research with these three species is scrutinized especially closely, according to procedures that were formally described in Guidance Document AR 2017-001, which was most recently updated April 22, 2020. 

This page shows each protocol for VA research with these species that is currently approved for work to proceed.  For each protocol, there is a link to the following supporting documents:

  • The final animal protocol form approved by the local IACUC and the office of the CVMO
  • The feedback document (“Secondary Review”) provided by the CVMO’s office to the station.  This feedback is provided by at least one boarded laboratory animal veterinarian and reviewed by the CVMO, also a boarded laboratory animal veterinarian. This guided the local IACUC and the investigator as they revised earlier versions of the animal protocol form, to ensure that the final version meets the standards required for CVMO approval.

VA Research with Current Secretary Approval for Work with Canines

VA Research with Current Approval for Work with Felines

Protocol

Funding Source

VA Location

1.  Conscious ambulatory bladder monitoring to understand neural control of lower urinary tract function (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

NIH

Cleveland

Purpose of Research:  More than 15 million Americans face the challenges of Incontinence, frequent urination, or dysfunctional voiding, often related to spinal cord injury, diabetes, or aging, which are common in the veteran population. Finding better ways to diagnose and treat the causes of these problems with bladder function requires devices that can monitor bladder volume and pressure under everyday conditions and in people without sensation.  This research is to develop and validate such a device. Cats control their bladders in ways similar to how people do, and are large enough for devices developed with them to be scalable for human use.

2.  Afferent stimulation to evoke recto-colonic reflex for colonic motility (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

VA

Cleveland

Purpose of Research:  Millions of Americans, many of whom are veterans, struggle with fecal incontinence or chronic constipation due to conditions such as spinal cord injury, and currently available methods of managing bowel function are inadequate. This research is to learn more about the neurophysiology mechanisms involved, so that better therapeutic approaches can be developed. Cats are the smallest known species in which the control of bowel storage and emptying are managed as in humans.

3.  Training Effects on Recovery of Balance and Limb Accuracy in Cats (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

VA (funding ended before 2016); no further work expected, but will be supported by University funds if necessary

Louisville

Purpose of Research:  Veterans with incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) may have sensation and be able to use muscles below the level of the injury, but still lack the finer control needed for balance and accurate foot placement when walking in environments common in the community.  This research compares the effectiveness of two potential treatment approaches, alone and in combination, for restoring skilled gait after SCI: (1) infusion of an agent into the site of the injury to promote repair of the damaged neural circuitry, and (2) a training strategy focused on improving accuracy of foot placements and maintenance of balance.         

4.  Force Feedback Redistribution & Eccentric-Focused Rehab post-SCI (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

 VA

Louisville

Purpose of Research:  Veterans with incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) may have sensation and be able to use muscles below the level of the injury to walk, but there is evidence that mechanisms for coordinating the muscles and adjusting limb stiffness may still be dysfunctional, interfering with normal gait and weight support. This research examines the mechanisms that are impaired and the effects of a training strategy specifically designed to reverse the impairment and thereby improve weight support and gait after SCI.

5.  Resolution of the Mechanisms Responsible for Atonia during REM Sleep (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

NIH

Los Angeles

Purpose of Research:  Veterans are four times as likely as other Americans to suffer from sleep apnea, with about 20% of veterans affected and 63,000 receiving VA benefits to address it.  Current ways of treating this (such as using CPAP machines) are not tolerable for many, so better treatments are needed.  This research is focused on the special neurons that keep the throat open for airflow to the lungs, and on drugs that might make them more active without disrupting normal sleep. The cat is the only species in which anyone has been able to study individual neurons during naturally-occurring states of sleep and wakefulness.

6.  GABAergic Switches Control Wakefulness, NREM Sleep and REM Sleep (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

NIH

Los Angeles

Purpose of Research:  Many people have trouble falling or staying asleep, or suffer frequent nightmares, especially if they have PTSD, which is a problem for many US combat veterans.  Current sleep medications can lead to daytime drowsiness, drug dependence, and other problems.  This research is to increase understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in the transitions between different stages of sleep and wakefulness, which can then inform the development of better ways to treat sleep disorders. 

VA Research with Current Approval for Work with Non-Human Primates

Protocol

Funding Source(s)

Station

1. Cellular and Synaptic Basis of Cognitive Function in Prefrontal Cortical Networks (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

NIH

Minneapolis

Purpose of Research:  It is estimated that one in every 150-400 people in the US (13,056,000 to 5,100,000 Veterans) has schizophrenia, which is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.  This research is specifically to gain understanding of how brain cells that are involved in cognitive function communicate with each other, how interference with this communication can lead to cognitive deficits like those in patients with schizophrenia, and how electrical stimulation might help to restore cognitive function.

Comment: Inactive. The protocol remains approved, but no further work with NHPs on this protocol is planned at this time.

2. Stem Cell Therapy for Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

VA

San Diego

Purpose of Research:  Over 40,000 US veterans are living with spinal cord injuries (SCI), and there are still no therapies to repair the spinal cord.  This research is to explore the possibility that neural stem cells can be used to help bridge the damaged tissue and restore communication across the site of the injury. This is an effort to go beyond helping those with SCI to live with them, to actually cure the problem.

3. Contusion Injury as a Model for Spinal Cord Injury (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

VA

San Diego

Purpose of Research:  Over 40,000 US veterans are living with spinal cord injuries (SCI), the most common of which are contusion (bruising) injuries, which have important anatomical and functional differences from injuries in which the spinal cord is cut.  This research is to gain greater understanding of contusion SCI, its time course and functional effects, to improve prediction of the outcomes of injuries that people experience, and then be better able to detect the effects of therapies that are applied.  

4. Interventional Therapies after Spinal Cord Injury (fully approved before new review policy was established October 25, 2018)

Protocol Form and Feedback Document

Yale University

West Haven

Purpose of Research: The purpose of the project is to improvement restoration of function after spinal cord injury by injection of a specialized protein into the space around the spinal cord. Results to date show improved functional outcome and development of axons below the level of the lesion. Non-human primates are used so we can get a good indication of the effect of this treatment in future studies with humans who are disabled with spinal cord injury.

Comment: Inactive. The protocol remains approved, but no further work with NHPs on this protocol is planned at this time.


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Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.