Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Experimenters criticized for mouse 'torture'?


Experimenters criticized for mouse 'torture'
Officials say research studying hopelessness and depression ethical
Updated: 4:55 p.m. CT May 21, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE - Mice were hung by their tails with adhesive tape, subjected to electrical shocks and forced to swim until nearly drowning during experiments done at the University of New Mexico.
University officials say there was nothing wrong with the research that helped a high school student study hopelessness and depression for a science fair project. But Daniel Theele the former lab veterinarian at the university who had been in charge of the welfare of lab animals at UNM called the research "torture." He said "I have defended animal research, stating that we do not abuse animals. Then, this slapped me in the face." He says he was forced to resign after complaining about the experiments.
This is such an odd story. I wonder why the vet was really fired?

There is a lot of hopelessness, depression, and suffering in the UNM labs that is as unlikely to lead to benefit as was the student’s science fair project. After all, someone might have seen her experiments and been inspired to go on and find a cure for cancer in mice. Oh wait, we cured cancer in mice 20 years ago.

The University of New Mexico is involved in the most speculative research and development ever undertaken. Ever, anywhere. Though admittedly, UNM isn’t the only actor in this modern tragedy.

There is research underway at the university to develop vaccines for various select agents -- possible biowarfare agents. This is part of the 9-11 hysteria.

Mouse models of cancer, monkey models of HIV, you name it, animal models of human disease and drug response are very poor predictors of anything having to do with human illness. Animal models have a nearly perfect failure rate precisely because they are actually tested in humans. In the case of the select agent vaccine program, this crucial test is unlikely to ever take place.

The research is pie-in-the-blue sky, and the cost in terms of tax dollars and suffering is grotesquely greater than any likely benefits.
Grant Number: 5P01AI056295-029003
Project Title: Primate Core
PI Information: Name Email Title
VAN ANDEL, ROGER A. roger.vanandel@nau.edu

“The incidence of primary pulmonary infections for most of the major biothreats is extremely low. Therefore, we will not be able to rely on testing new therapeutics and vaccines during "natural" outbreaks as is commonly done for many more common infections. Further, as is the case with the human immunodeficiency virus, direct challenges with the biothreats in normal human populations is unlikely to be a viable alternative. Because of these issues we will need to rely on animal models much more than usual for understanding the basic pathophysiology of the disease as well as determining the efficacy of new therapeutics and vaccines….
Then-La Cueva High School student Sarah Founds said that project at UNM was worthwhile and did no harm. "I thought it was awesome. I had a lot of fun working on it." She said it "wasn't overly painful." And that she’d, " encourage other students to do that kind of research."

And really, considering other research underway at UNM, hers doesn’t seem out of the ordinary in anyway.

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