Tag Archives: animal experiments

How mice are like humans, how they aren’t, and why it matters

By Kathy Guillermo

A recent study published in the journal Science Advances concluded that mice can transfer their heightened pain sensitivity to other mice through scent cues. This paper is the latest in a long line showing that these tiny animals deserve our respect, yet the very people who gather the data fail to draw the obvious conclusion: We must stop treating mice as though they have no emotions or feelings — because it’s been proved over and over again that they do.

To reach this latest conclusion, experimenters at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) first had to make mice acutely sensitive to pain — a terrible process in and of itself — and then determine whether other mice had become super-sensitive by inflicting additional painful procedures on them.

Certainly, nothing good came of this study for the mice involved. Some were injected with a substance that induces long-lasting inflammation. Others were addicted to morphine or alcohol and then made to endure an agonizing withdrawal process.

They were poked with plastic filaments. Their tails were dipped in hot water, and their paws were injected with an irritant to see how much they licked the site.

If these inhumane procedures had been inflicted outside the laboratory, they’d have warranted cruelty-to-animals charges. But mice in laboratories are exempt from even the most meager of protections under the law. Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, they aren’t even defined as “animals.”

Other studies have shown that mice form long-lasting bonds, are good mothers, feel empathy and even giggle (at frequencies that we can’t hear). They have a fundamental right to live without being tormented by humans.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with imprisoning and exploiting mice in laboratories. While they are like humans in many ways, such as the ability to suffer, in others, they are entirely different.

There is abundant evidence that experiments on animals rarely yield findings that end up being clinically useful for humans. One study found that fewer than 10 percent of promising discoveries coming out of basic animal research make their way into clinical use within 20 years.

One large, multi-institution study found few similarities between the genetic response in mice to things that cause inflammation—such as burns, trauma and infection—and the response in humans. In some cases, the reactions were actually the opposite.

And dozens of papers are released each month on rodent studies of diabetes, despite vast differences in the way rodents regulate glucose and the way the disease progresses in them compared with in humans.

By any definition, that’s a pretty dismal track record.

“I think we’ve got ourselves into a mess right now, with lab mice in particular.”

That’s Joseph Garner, an associate professor in the Department of Comparative Medicine at Stanford University, speaking in a recent interview in New Scientist magazine. Garner says that researchers need to ask themselves if animals are truly modeling human disease. “Increasingly, they are not,” he says. “So we end up learning a great deal about how mice respond to various compounds, but it’s irrelevant to humans and an enormous waste of money.”

What is relevant to human medicine is research that uses superior non-animal methods, such as sophisticated computer modeling, engineered human tissue and organs on microchips, which can gauge the effectiveness of drugs on human cells. In fact, Harvard University just announced the development of a 3-D-printed heart-on-a-chip, which will pave the way for rapid customization to an individual patient’s cells.

So perhaps it’s time for OHSU—and others who continue to conduct archaic experiments on animals—to embrace modern, non-animal research methods and develop some empathy of their own.

Public joins Humane Society in urging Harvard University to prohibit severe animal suffering

More Than 26,000 People Call for New Lab Policy

(Dec. 7, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to Harvard University and 387 other federally-funded colleges and universities, urging the schools to adopt a formal policy that would protect animals in their laboratories from severe pain and distress. The signers of the letters oppose the use of tax dollars to support activities at the schools’ laboratories that cause severe animal suffering.

“Americans don’t want to pay for animal research that causes suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues for The HSUS. “Harvard, which receives public funding for its animal research, is well known as an elite educational institution—it’s time for the university to lead the way in its commitment to animal welfare.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct animal research. In 2010 Harvard received over $370 million in federal funds for research that includes experiments involving more than 180,000 monkeys, farm animals, cats, dogs, rats, rabbits and other animals used each year at the university.

Federal laws do not prohibit laboratory research or conditions that cause severe pain and distress in animals, but more than 60 colleges and universities have adopted their own policies that do.

Methods to prevent severe pain and distress for animals in laboratories could include:

Using non-animal alternatives when possible.
Properly using anesthetics and painkillers.
Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
Determining the most humane time to end the experiment.
Preparing for emergency situations.

Background
Since 2008, The HSUS has asked Harvard four times to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress, however the university has yet to adopt such a policy.
#

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.
Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “HumaneTV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.
Severe Animal Suffering

More Than 26,000 People Call for New Lab Policy

(Dec. 7, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States sent letters from 26,688 members of the public to Harvard University and 387 other federally-funded colleges and universities, urging the schools to adopt a formal policy that would protect animals in their laboratories from severe pain and distress. The signers of the letters oppose the use of tax dollars to support activities at the schools’ laboratories that cause severe animal suffering.

“Americans don’t want to pay for animal research that causes suffering,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director for animal research issues for The HSUS. “Harvard, which receives public funding for its animal research, is well known as an elite educational institution—it’s time for the university to lead the way in its commitment to animal welfare.”

The schools receiving the request for the new policy receive an estimated $6 billion in federal funding per year to conduct animal research. In 2010 Harvard received over $370 million in federal funds for research that includes experiments involving more than 180,000 monkeys, farm animals, cats, dogs, rats, rabbits and other animals used each year at the university.

Federal laws do not prohibit laboratory research or conditions that cause severe pain and distress in animals, but more than 60 colleges and universities have adopted their own policies that do.

Methods to prevent severe pain and distress for animals in laboratories could include:
Using non-animal alternatives when possible.
Properly using anesthetics and painkillers.
Decreasing duration and intensity of stressors.
Determining the most humane time to end the experiment.
Preparing for emergency situations.

Background
Since 2008, The HSUS has asked Harvard four times to adopt a policy that would prevent severe pain or distress, however the university has yet to adopt such a policy.
#

Media Contact: Anna West, 301-258-1518, awest@humanesociety.org.
Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “HumaneTV” app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

NASA’s cruel monkey experiments should be grounded

By Ian Smith

To many people, the image of a monkey’s face peering out from an astronaut’s helmet is comically absurd and more suitable for the cover of MAD magazine than any reputable academic journal or serious government publication. To others, pictures of terrified monkeys and chimpanzees strapped into spaceships are tragic artifacts of a less enlightened time.

But just when we think that we’ve left science fiction behind, it sneaks up from behind and bites us.

While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is no longer going to the bizarre lengths of actually sending monkeys into space, it is currently planning to fund another cruel and pointless experiment on this planet. The agency has announced that it will spend $1.75 million to fund an experiment in which up to 30 squirrel monkeys will be exposed to dangerous levels of space radiation. Continue reading NASA’s cruel monkey experiments should be grounded

Why would starving monkeys want to live longer?

By Alka Chandna, Ph.D.

Imagine the horror of eating, sleeping, relieving yourself and sitting with nothing to do in the same tiny room for decades. You can never go outside and feel the sun on your skin or smell the fragrance of blooming flowers. Your days are drained of color, scent and almost every other form of sensory stimulation. Imagine, too, that you are never fed quite enough and feel constant hunger pangs. Worse, you are deprived of the one thing that might bring you some small comfort—the companionship of another living being. Continue reading Why would starving monkeys want to live longer?