Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DrugMonkey

DrugMonkey (aka, Michael A. Taffe)
"biomedical research, just another job…"I'm particularly offended by the use of "cute" monkey cartoons by people working in labs that hurt these animals. This one is on the front page of the Taffe Lab site (aka: Primate Neurobehavioral Laboratory -- Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders
T H E S C R I P P S R E S E A R C H I N S T I T U T E.) What pukes.

The National Library of Medicine has indexed approximately 38,000 scientific papers related to experimental alchohol exposure in animals (and 30,000 dealing with alcohol use in humans); one might think that taxpayers wouldn't be forced to pay for demonstrations that alcohol consumption affects learning in adolescent monkeys. But you'd be wrong.

And, if you think that the people being "paid" by you and me to run these silly and cruel demonstrations are greatful that the government is taking money from us and giving it to them, you'd be wrong again. And, if you think government shouldn't be spending taxpayer money on stupid demonstrations like this, well then, you must either hate children or know nothing about modern science. If you think these people do what they do because of some altristic drive to help humanity, read DrugMonkey's post "Scientific Meeting 101: The Schmoozery" (June 19th, 2007):
This brings us to issues of career and what you want to work on scientifically. “I don’t DO AIDS work”, is the usual response. Well do you want a grant or not? Find a collaborator that knows lentiviral models but doesn’t know drugs. Two Aims for me, one Aim for “Congressionally mandated area of interest” and there you go!
Taffe says, "We are ... investigating whether chronic alcohol drinking in adolescent animals leads to slowed acquisition of a number of behavioral tasks."

Taffe's demonstrations are particularly stupid and odious in light of the unambiguous uncontested fact that alcohol interfers with cognitive and neurophysiological development in humans.

The American Medical Association says that, "based on two decades of comprehensive research on how alcohol affects the brains of youth:"(my emphasis)
Frontal lobe development and the refinement of pathways and connections continue until age 16, and a high rate of energy is used as the brain matures until age 20. Damage from alcohol at this time can be long-term and irreversible. In addition, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in youth than adults. Adolescents need only drink half as much to suffer the same negative effects.

Drinkers vs. non-drinkers: research findings

Adolescent drinkers scored worse than non-users on vocabulary, general information, memory, memory retrieval and at least three other tests

Verbal and nonverbal information recall was most heavily affected, with a 10 percent performance decrease in alcohol users

Significant neuropsychological deficits exist in early to middle adolescents (ages 15 and 16) with histories of extensive alcohol use

Adolescent drinkers perform worse in school, are more likely to fall behind and have an increased risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence

Alcohol affects the sleep cycle, resulting in impaired learning and memory as well as disrupted release of hormones necessary for growth and maturation

Alcohol use increases risk of stroke among young drinkers

Adverse effects of alcohol on the brain: research findings

Youth who drink can have a significant reduction in learning and memory, and teen alcohol users are most susceptible to damaging two key brain areas that are undergoing dramatic changes in adolescence:

The hippocampus handles many types of memory and learning and suffers from the worst alcohol-related brain damage in teens. Those who had been drinking more and for longer had significantly smaller hippocampi (10 percent).

The prefrontal area (behind the forehead) undergoes the most change during adolescence. Researchers found that adolescent drinking could cause severe changes in this area and others, which play an important role in forming adult personality and behavior and is often called the CEO of the brain.

Lasting implications

Compared to students who drink moderately or not at all, frequent drinkers may never be able to catch up in adulthood, since alcohol inhibits systems crucial for storing new information as long-term memories and makes it difficult to immediately remember what was just learned.

Additionally, those who binge once a week or increase their drinking from age 18 to 24 may have problems attaining the goals of young adulthood—marriage, educational attainment, employment, and financial independence. And rather than "outgrowing" alcohol use, young abusers are significantly more likely to have drinking problems as adults.

What can be done to stop this epidemic?

The AMA advocates numerous ways to combat this growing epidemic, including:

Reducing access to alcohol for children and youth

Reducing sales and provision of alcohol to children and youth

Increasing enforcement of underage drinking laws

Providing more education about the harmful effects of alcohol abuse

Reducing the demand for alcohol and the normalization of alcohol use by children and youth
For some reason, they failed to include more demonstrations that young monkeys have trouble learning when they are forced into alcoholism.

Nevertheless, look what Taffe did, his reasons for doing so, and the money he got to do it:
SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE
5R21AA013972-03 7006982
Michael A. (DrugMonkey) Taffe
COGNITIVE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL IN PERI-ADOLESCENT MONKEYS
2007: (not listed)
2006: $171,834
2005: $175,969
2004: $175,969
Semi-total: $523,772 (of our money)

Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Recreational overuse of alcohol among adolescent populations remains a significant and growing public health concern. Surveys report that 10% of eighth graders and up to a third of high school seniors consume binge quantities of alcohol on at least a biweekly basis. Heavy drinking during this critical period of formal education and significant brain development may pose serious risk for later intellectual and cognitive function. The proposed studies will develop a novel nonhuman primate model to evaluate the consequences of heavy drinking during adolescence task acquisition and performance in a range of cognitive domains. The Aims under investigation are 1) To determine if chronic oral alcohol intake slows acquisition of a battery of cognitive and behavioral tests in peri-adolescent monkeys; 2) To determine the cognitive and behavioral effects of withdrawal from chronic alcohol exposure; and 3) To determine if a history of chronic oral alcohol intake alters monkeys' cognitive and behavioral sensitivity to challenge with specific psychoactive compounds.
Peri-adolescent monkeys will be trained on a battery of tests which probe learning, memory, attention and motor functions. A flavorant-fade procedure will be used to generate consistent, high levels of alcohol drinking in the experimental group which will be allowed to orally self-administer alcohol (M-F) throughout the 18 month test acquisition period. Radiotelemetric measurement of circadian patterns of body temperature and locomotor activity, and cerebrospinal fluid monoamine / metabolite concentrations will be used as correlates for the behavioral measures. Access to alcohol will be discontinued following acquisition of all behavioral tests to evaluate possible effects of withdrawal on the behavioral and physiological measures. Acute doses of psychoactive compounds will be employed to probe possible persisting behavioral sensitivities to serotonergic, dopaminergic, GABAergic or glutamatergic challenge. This exploratory study will provide evidence regarding the risks posed to cognition by heavy alcohol drinking in the peri-adolescent period.
Consider this: If Taffe is so unable to distinquish between important and trivial uses of taxpayer dollars (to say nothing of his apparent inability to make meaningful career choices), it is unlikely that his ability to discriminate between meaningful and trivial research data will be much better. Not only is his choice of research question questionable, but his inabilty to distinguish between meaningful and meaningless makes any of his research conclusions more than just a little suspect.

As his on-line moniker suggests, DrugMonkey's current main income stream comes from his obsession with Ecstasy, or MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine). From 2005 through 2007, we've awarded him a total of $1,223,322 to demonstrate that monkeys are affected by MDMA and related compounds. In a 2006 paper, he wrote:
Six male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta; Chinese origin) participated[!] in this study. Animals were 6–10 years of age... Animals on this study had previously been immobilized with ketamine (5–20 mg/kg) no less than semiannually for purposes of routine care and some experimental procedures. Animals also had various acute exposure to scopolamine, raclopride, methylphenidate, SCH23390, Δ9-THC, nicotine and mecamylamine in behavioral pharmacological studies and 4 had been exposed to an oral ethanol induction procedure. No experimental drug treatments had been administered for a minimum of one year prior to the start of telemetry studies and thus were not anticipated to have any bearing on the results of the current study....Radio telemetric transmitters (TA10TA-D70; Transoma / Data Sciences International) were implanted subcutaneously in the flank....

Results: MDMA significantly increased body temperature within 10–15 mins of drug administration ... Effects of MDMA on temperature did not last beyond the first three hours after dosing.

MDA also significantly increased body temperature ...

METH also significantly increased body temperature in the first few hours after administration, however the timecourse differed notably ...
Now we know.
Grant Number: 1R01DA018418-01A1
Project Title: BEHAVIORAL TOXICITY OF MDMA IN RHESUS MONKEYS
Michael A. (DrugMonkey) Taffe mtaffe@scripps.edu ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Recreational use of (+/-) 3,4 -methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy") has become increasingly popular in recent decades. Major surveys in the US report steep increases in the rate of MDMA use while use of a number of other recreational drugs has been stable or in decline. College age adults have lifetime prevalence rates of 12-18% thus a substantial fraction of the population is exposed to MDMA. Numerous studies have shown that abstinent MDMA users exhibit deficits on a range of cognitive tasks. Work in nonhuman primate models over past decades has shown that high doses of MDMA (10 mg/kg); when administered at 12 hr intervals for 4 days, selectively reduce markers for serotonin (5-HT) axons and terminals in many brain regions. However, such MDMA-associated 5-HT neurotoxicity is not sufficient to produce cognitive or motor alterations in monkeys under unchallenged conditions. Prior monkey models have not employed repeated, intermittent dosing patterns similar to human users, however. To investigate the novel hypothesis that cognitive and motor disturbances in human users of MDMA result from repeated cycles of 5HT axon pruning/reinnervation, experiments will be conducted in rhesus macaques under the following Aims. Specific Aim I: To determine if repeated, intermittent exposure to a low dose of MDMA results in detectable neurochemical, behavioral or electrophysiological alterations. Specific Aim II: To determine if a short-interval, multi-dose exposure to low doses of MDMA ("MDMA stacking") results in a neurochemical, behavioral and electrophysiological profile similar to that produced by the repeated, high-dose, long interval regimen that produces serotonin neurotoxicity. Specific Aim III: To determine if repeated episodes of exposure to MDMA result in progressive electrophysiological, neurochemical or chronophysiological disturbance. Specific Aim IV: To determine if a history of MDMA exposure impairs acquisition and performance of a battery of neuropsychological tests.
Project Start: 01-APR-2005
Project End: 31-MAR-2010
ICD: NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE
Now, DrugMonkey, as you might imagine, is particularly sensitive to laypeople and scientists who think that MDMA might not be a significant health risk; or, heaven forbid, could even be beneficial in some cases. You can imagine what that could do to his income.

But, even if Ecstasy has some risks, it doesn't seem to be widely used. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports:
Annual prevalence of ecstasy use in 10th and 12th grades in 1996 was 4.6%—actually considerably higher than among college students and young adults at that time—but it fell in both grades over the next two years.

Use then rose sharply in both grades in 1999 through 2001, bringing annual prevalence up to 6.2% among 10th graders and 9.2% among 12th graders.

In 2000 and 2001, use also began to rise among 8th graders, to 3.5%.

In 2002, use decreased sharply—by about one fifth—in all three grades, followed by an even sharper decline in all grades in 2003. Although the drops continued in all three grades in 2004, they decelerated considerably.

By 2005 the decline had halted among 8th and 10th graders but continued among 12th graders. In 2006, use among 8th and 10th graders stayed level but use among 12th graders increased.

Annual prevalence rates are down by between one half and nearly two thirds in all three grades compared with recent peaks in 2001.
And, in any case, what does the temperature rise in monkeys injected with MDMA, MDA, or methamphetamine have to do with kids experimenting with drugs? Like the AMA's recommendations regarding alcohol use by kids, the answers don't lie with more experiments on monkeys.

Check out DrugMonkey's publishing history.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tom Regan on animals' rights

Genesis 9:2

"And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered," said God.

While looking at recently published primate experimentation papers, I happened upon one titled "Textural characteristics of the iliac-femoral trabecular pattern in a bipedally trained Japanese macaque," (2007). A little on-line investigating revealed that there is a tradition -- begun in Japan apparently, but now spread to various countries in southeast Asia -- called sarumawashi, a compound word from Japanese: saru (monkey) and mawashi (trainer), sometimes translated as "monkey turn."

Monkeys used in sarumawashi have been the subject of a handful of scientific papers, the most recent of which was the one I mentioned above (the abstract is copied at the end of this post.) Others have included titles such as:

"Postcranial skeleton of a macaque trained for bipedal standing and walking and implications for functional adaptation," (1995)

"Curvature of the lumbar spine as a consequence of mechanical necessities in Japanese macaques trained for bipedalism," (1988)

"Do highly trained monkeys walk like humans? A kinematic study of bipedal locomotion in bipedally trained Japanese macaques," 2004. [Full text]

I also found a number of short videos of sarumawashi. There is something about the monkeys' behavior that suggests that they have been "trained" with methods other than love and patience.

The deformities discussed in the papers on forced bipedalism in macaques do not question whether there is any accompanying pain or discomfort. If naturally bipedal primates suffer chronic back pain, I suspect that quadrapeds forced into bipedalism with resultant bone deformities must be more severely afflicted. It seems that human contact with other animals is, more often than not, a nightmare of exploitation.

When monsters have you in their power, you have few options other than doing as they command and hoping not to be punished. In such a situation, most of us would do as ordered just to survive. Imagine having throngs of giants laughing and jeering as you were forced to dance for their entertainment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df029HxiqRk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eofqo_ShV-Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTrQu2q_4Zk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAAmYf6DL0k

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4X0fXMvuss

Textural characteristics of the iliac-femoral trabecular pattern in a bipedally trained Japanese macaque. Volpato V, Viola TB, Nakatsukasa M, Bondioli L, Macchiarelli R. Primates. 2007 Jul 14.

Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique, UMR CNRS 6112, Université de Nantes, 2 rue de la Houssinière, BP 92208, 44322, Nantes Cedex 3, France, virginie.volpato@univ-nantes.fr.

Previous research has revealed that Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) trained in bipedal performance (Saru-mawashi) display a number of functionally related external skeletal changes, as well as some site-specific endostructural cortical and cancellous adaptations. Through radiography assisted by digital image processing, we investigated the trabecular pattern of the ilium and femoral neck of Sansuke, a macaque habitually bipedally trained for 8 years. A set of eight regions of interest on Sansuke were recorded for subtle structural characterization of the cancellous network and compared to a sample of 5 ilia and 23 femurs from 26 adult wild Japanese macaques. The measured variables include trabecular thickness, trabecular bone volume, and degree of anisotropy. As a whole, the site-specific textural characteristics of the cancellous network detected on the ilium and proximal femur of the bipedally trained macaque can be interpreted as functional adaptive responses to more compressive loads dissipated along the axis from the sacro-iliac to the coxo-femoral joint, and back.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dalai Lama Disciple Makes Big Discovery!

Brain damage can decrease rhesus monkeys' threat-induced freezing and can marginally decrease fearful responses to a snake.

Kalin NH, Shelton SE, Davidson RJ. Role of the Primate Orbitofrontal Cortex in Mediating Anxious Temperament. Biol Psychiatry. 2007.

Department of Psychiatry University of Wisconsin Medical School; Department of Psychology; Waisman Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.

BACKGROUND: Excessive behavioral inhibition during childhood marks anxious temperament and is a risk factor for the development of anxiety and affective disorders. Studies in nonhuman primates can provide important information related to the expression of this risk factor, since threat-induced freezing in rhesus monkeys is a trait-like characteristic analogous to human behavioral inhibition. The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and amygdala are part of a circuit involved in the processing of emotions and associated physiological responses. Earlier work demonstrated involvement of the primate central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) in mediating anxious temperament. This study assessed the role of the primate OFC in mediating anxious temperament and its involvement in fear responses. METHODS: Twelve adolescent rhesus monkeys were studied (six lesion and six control monkeys). Lesions were targeted at regions of the OFC that are most interconnected with the amygdala. Behavior and physiological parameters were assessed before and after the lesions. RESULTS: The OFC lesions significantly decreased threat-induced freezing and marginally decreased fearful responses to a snake. The lesions also resulted in a leftward shift in frontal brain electrical activity consistent with a reduction in anxiety. The lesions did not significantly decrease hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF). CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate a role for the OFC in mediating anxious temperament and fear-related responses in adolescent primates. Because of the similarities between rhesus monkey threat-induced freezing and childhood behavioral inhibition, these findings are relevant to understanding mechanisms underlying anxious temperament in humans.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Heart of Vivisection

"Gene Expression Control by the 1918 Flu in Macaques" is the title of a grant awarded to Carole R. Baskin, a junior scientist and veterinarian at Arizona State University, by NIAID (the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease), a part of the NIH.

Three things make this grant worth noting. The first is the monkeys' suffering, but only a small minority cares very much about anyone's suffering but their own. The second is the concern over proliferation voiced by prudent scientists when the 1918 Spanish flu genome was published. (See Experts fear escape of 1918 flu from lab.) This study seems to be more evidence that their concerns were warranted.

The third thing worth noting goes to the heart of the motivations of vivisectors. (Always an interesting topic.) Are they trying to help humanity? Do they use a particular species of animal because it is the "best" model of some illness or metabolic system in humans? Well, consider what Baskin says:
(provided by applicant) These studies will be performed by Dr. Carole Baskin (DVM), who has recently completed a 4-year fellowship in the Department of Comparative Medicine, and who is seeking the training necessary to develop an independent research program focused on using nonhuman primates as models of human infectious disease.
Did you understand that? She isn't focusing on a particular disease that necessitates (according to the claims) a particular animal model, she simply wants to experiment on monkeys. She says:
The training environment provides outstanding facilities, expertise in nonhuman primate models of virus infection, and state-of-the-art resources for using genomic technologies and bioinformatics to study virus-host interactions.
And again:
These studies will provide training in the skills needed to use nonhuman primates as models for human infectious disease, to develop and implement a scientifically sound research program, and to incorporate genomic technologies for the evaluation of gene expression as well as clinical data.
If the study of basic host/virus interactions was really what she was interested in, she could study plant viruses.

But this isn't her real interest; her real interest is, as she says, "nonhuman primate models," and this lays bare the reality behind the vivisectors' sick motivations.

----

[Vets should be trying to help animals not hurting and killing them. If they want to play doctor and study human illnesses, let them go to medical school and study humans. Sheesh.]

Obesity and Pregnancy

Vivisectors intone an endless chant that animal models are the road to human immortality. Without such talismans, they claim, all medical research would come to a screeching halt and disease would quickly overtake us all. It is as if animals must be placed on the altar to Science and tortured to death to ward off evil spirits. People opposed to such sacrifice are Luddites or anti-human.

Any scientific-sounding question is deemed adequate to justify spending large sums of taxpayer money and hurting and killing animals. Here's a new example of meaningless research that will cost the taxpayers somewhere around $1.5 million, harm many animals, and help no one (except the University of Utah and the vivisector.)

The study is especially frivilous in light of the wealth of data pointing out the risks to human fetuses and babies when the mother is obese.

Grant Number: 1R01DK080558-01
Project Title: Maternal Diet Modifies the Fetal Primate Epigenome and Circadian Gene Expression
PI Information: LANE, ROBERT H. robert.lane@hsc.utah.edu ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR

Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Project summary. Accumulating evidence from our laboratory and others suggests that adult diseases originate in utero, and likely occur through the reprogramming of gene expression via epigenetic changes in chromatin structure (an altered "histone code"). Although models of intrauterine growth restriction have been established in rodent models which demonstrate that fetal alterations in the histone code are involved in the persistence and conveyance of the altered postnatal phenotype, little is known about the effects of a high fat (HF) maternal diet and resultant obesity on primate fetal biology. We hypothesized that a HF diet in non- human primates (NHP) would induce tissue specific changes in chromatin structure resulting in altered expression of fetal genes critical to the development of childhood and adult diseases. Based on (1) our preliminary data, and (2) emerging evidence that the Clock family of circadian genes functions to orchestrate multiple metabolic processes, the focus of this proposal is the epigenetic modifications in fetal circadian gene expression induced in response to a HF maternal environment. In Aim 1, we will characterize maternal HF diet-induced chromatin modifications in relevant NHP fetal tissue (hypothalamus and liver). In Aim 2, we will characterize the molecular means by which these chromatin modifications meaningfully alter fetal circadian gene expression. In Aim 3, we will determine if healthful maternal diet modification after chronic HF consumption will revert the overall pattern of the fetal histone code back to its naive state, and if diet improvement alters the epigenetic characteristics and expression of fetal genes of interest in the NHP. Relevance. Obesity causes substantial soical [sic], economic and health burdens. The rate of obesity is escalating disproportionately in children (infants to young adults). This rapid increase is unlikely to be due to environment or genetics alone. Based on previous work, we believe that obestiy in part starts when the child was a fetus in utero and occurs because of reprogramming of gene expression caused by the mother's diet and health. We will test this hypothesis in non-human primates and will determine whether improving maternal diet changes genes of interest that contribute to childhood obesity. Given the obesity epidemic, this has great public health significance.

Institution: UNIVERSITY OF UTAH
75 South 2000 East
SALT LAKE CITY, UT 84112
Fiscal Year: 2007 (First year funding: $294,893. An increase is likely each successive year.)
Department: PEDIATRICS
Project Start: 01-JUL-2007
Project End: 30-JUN-2011
ICD: NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF DIABETES AND DIGESTIVE AND KIDNEY DISEASES


What's the answer to the childhood obesity epidemic? Certainly not parent and child education about diet and exercise; certainly not limiting TV and video games or junk foot and pounds of sturated fat... If you believe these things might lead to some improvement, you just don't understand science.

The an$wer, of cour$e, i$ to induce obe$ity in monkey$ and then experiment on their babie$.

See too:

MECHANISMS FOR FETAL HEPATIC PROGRAMMING IN THE NON-HUMAN PRIMATE (NHP)

The Common Marmoset as a Primate Model of Maternal Obesity

Maternal High Fat Diet and Melanocortin System in Offspring

But the association between obese parents, particularly mothers, and later childhood obesity and its associaed problems, is already recognized. Harvard researchers Emily Oken and Matthew W. Gillman note in their review article, "Fetal Origins of Obesity" (Obesity Research, 2003), that "Maternal and paternal body habitus predict offspring fatness, particularly fatness during childhood. A combination of genetic and both pre- and postnatal environmental causes is likely. In addition, parental adiposity is directly associated with offspring birth weight, with stronger associations for the mother than for the father, which implicates prenatal environmental factors."

Interestingly, because this research will be conducted in Utah, the protocols -- the details of the study's design and how the animals will be used -- are off limits to the public. Utah has exempted all such documents from public disclosure.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thought Experiments


I like thought experiments. During the build up to our invasion of Iraq under the pretext of destroying Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, I wondered what the administration would be doing if in fact it knew that Saddam had WMDs and knew where they were. When they didn’t do any of the things I imagined that I would have done if I were them and had had the knowledge they claimed to have had, I surmised that they were lying weeks before the invasion.

Let’s do another thought experiment.

How would vivisectors behave if they were compassionate and honest and really cared about animals (even if they cared for humans more) and wished that they did not have to do unsavory things to them?

This is what they claim about themselves, or at least what the industry and the industry’s front groups claim. For instance, the Research Defense Society (a UK-based industry group) says:
Researchers are concerned about the welfare of the animals that they study and this concern is both humane and scientific. Scientists are at least as caring as other people and, like anyone else, often have pets of their own. They have no reason to mistreat research animals and good reason for treating them well, because the use of unhealthy, stressed or frightened animals would reduce the reliability of an experiments results.[sic] Researchers make sure that their animals are well fed, well housed and kept free of infections and other illnesses.
The Wellcome Trust (a UK-based research foundation) says, in a short article about the use of mice in studies in funds on deafness, that:
The scientists undertaking this research ... would prefer not to have to use animals at all, but there are currently no in vitro alternatives to the use of a living animal for studying the development and function of the ear. Although some electrophysiology can be carried out directly in humans, and cell culture systems can be used for specific investigations, such approaches have a limited value in terms of understanding how the auditory system functions, and how deafness arises, in the body. However, through good experimental design and improved laboratory techniques that gather as much information as possible from each animal, the number of mice used is minimised. The researchers have also taken a keen interest in improving the welfare of the mice, enriching their environment with play tunnels, for example.
So, let's proceed with a thought experiment and ask ourselves -- if the claims were true -- how would vivisectors behave?

These are my suppositions, you might have others.

1. Colleagues (and institutions) discovered to be violating animal welfare laws would be forced out of the profession, or at least lose their access to animals.

2. Oversight would be fastidious. Oversight committee members would visit labs frequenyly to assure strict compliance with all regulations.

3. Investigators and institutions would routinely exceed the minimum standards of care set forth in federal guidelines.

4. Researchers would be very anxious to explain to the public what they do to animals in their studies, how they go about making sure that the animals suffer as little as possible, and why they believe there studies are justified.

5. Oversight committees would be turning down proposed studies with regularity.

Not one of my suppositions describes the industry's actual behavior. The opposite is true is essentially every case.

1. If researchers respect animals and take seriously the laws governing their use, they would not tolerate misuse and violations by their co-workers. But violations and misuse seldom result in serious sanctions. Here's a current test case.

2. Oversight is lax, especially internal peer oversight. A current example is Ei Terasawa at the University of Wisconsin. She had been keeping monkeys chair-restrained for four and a half days at a time while she "pushed and pulled" chemicals deeply into and out of their brains. She had been doing this for almost two decades. Typical IACUCs inspect labs only seldomly, and never frequently.

3. Rather than exceeding the federal minimum standards for care and housing of animals, most meet only the mimimum standards. Single housing of monkeys in labs is common because its convenient. Individual vivisectors complain reqularly about even the minimal local oversight. The most extreme deprivations and violations are frequently the result of an individual investigator's lab's attitude about the animals it uses.

4. Public debate and participation in public fora is essentially non-existent -- in spite of long-time clamoring for public discussion by activists. Labs destroy records to avoid public disclosure.

5. Very few if any protocols are not approved. Essentially every proposal is approved.

If researchers were really engaged in service to humanity, what evidence might we expect to see?

In most varieties of public service, examples of volunteerism abound. There are volunteer fire departments. Doctors, teachers and nurses are volunteering their time around the world. There are volunteer engineers, business people, agricultural scientists, foresters, social workers, veterinarians, animal shelter workers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians.... where are the volunteer vivisectors?

The results of this thought experiment seem clear. There isn't much evidence, other than their own claims, that vivisectors are motivated by an interest in serving humanity. There isn't much evidence that there is a genuine concern for the animals within the industry, or that it is honest with the public.

The evidence strongly suggests that the industry is made up of individuals motivated by greed, who are desperate to keep the the public from knowing what is actually going on in the labs, who hide from the light of day, who lie, and who treat animals miserably.

All-in-all this thought experiment suggests that the industry isn't worthy of one iota of public support.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Spontaneous Altruism by Chimpanzees and Young Children

An open access document published on PLoSBiology.

Be sure to watch the videos.

[Note: The difference between honesty and dishonesty in science is exemplified by the contrast between this paper -- where videos referred to are available for inspection -- and papers from researchers at the University of Wisconsin National Primate Research Center like "Effects of amygdala lesions on sleep in rhesus monkeys" -- where videos referred to were destroyed in response to requests for copies. [Here, here, and here, 628 Pieces of Primate Research Garbage.]

AAALAC: Fool's Gold

Another AAALAC accedited facility, the University of Connecticut Health Center, has been fined by USDA for violations of the Animal Wefare Act.

FDA says: "Achievement of full-accredited status through AAALAC is considered to be the "Gold Standard" in laboratory animal care."

Dr. Michael Hart, director of Laboratory Animal Health at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says, "[AAALAC] is considered the “gold standard” in the care and use of animals in science."

Lab Animal News says, "Over the span of three decades, more precisely, is how long it’s taken AAALAC’s program of accrediting research animal facilities to become recognized as the gold standard of quality assurance by stakeholders in the laboratory animal science community."

Fool's Gold

Federal Fine For UConn Health Center: Animal Research Violations Included Care Of Monkeys That Had Holes Drilled In Skulls

By GRACE E. MERRITT Courant Staff Writer
July 19, 2007

FARMINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has fined the University of Connecticut Health Center $5,532 for animal care violations, including several charges tied to the handling of lab monkeys whose heads were drilled as part of a neuroscience experiment.

The USDA fined the health center last month for seven violations found during inspections in October 2006 and January 2007. Federal inspectors criticized the health center for failing to identify injections of non-approved substances, inadequate training of personnel, and failing to handle the monkeys "in a manner that did not cause stress, trauma and unnecessary discomfort," according to the report.

The agency also cited the health center for using outdated drugs and animal food and for keeping animals in a dirty room with peeling paint.

UConn spokeswoman Carolyn Pennington confirmed that the health center had been fined, and she said the fine had already been paid. She also pointed out that last week the health center received full accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, a private nonprofit organization that promotes humane treatment of animals in science.

Jim Rogers, spokesman for the USDA's animal and plant health inspection service, said Wednesday that the USDA has not yet received the payment, but that in general an investigation is considered closed once a fine is paid.

The USDA began investigating the health center after animal-rights activist Justin Goodman, a UConn graduate student, filed a 40-page complaint last September about the treatment of the rhesus monkeys involved in the neuroscience project.

As part of the experiment, researchers drilled holes into the monkeys' skulls to implant steel coils in their brains to record eye movements. The research was designed to help clinicians diagnose and treat stroke, progressive supranuclear palsy and other diseases. The researcher, David Waitzman, voluntarily stopped the experiment last August. Two of the three monkeys involved in the project died.

Goodman launched a campaign to stop the research, at one point chaining himself to a railing during the university's 250th anniversary celebration.

"I'm glad that the USDA finally took action against the UConn Health Center and David Waitzman," Goodman said. "However, a fine of $5,500 is hardly enough to get the health center to change the way its animal care program operates. It's a slap on the wrist."

Five years ago, the USDA fined UConn's main campus $129,500 for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act on charges that the university abused research animals, leading to the death of 22 naked mole rats and a rabbit. The university admitted to the violations and agreed to change procedures for dealing with research animals.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bush Administration Clears Itself of Wrongdoing

If current opinion polls are a fair measure of current public perception, most people would look at a headline like this with skepticism. A cynic would see it as just another coverup.

The similarity to the above ficticious headline is hard to miss in this real headline from the July 17, 2007, Sacramento Bee:
UC panel dismisses claims of animal abuse at lab
The panel that dismissed these claims was the UC Davis Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC); the same committee that would have been responsible for the abuse had it found that the allegations were true.
The investigation was conducted by UC Davis Attending Veterinarian Lon Kendall and members of the campus Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The committee oversees all research involving animals at UC Davis.
That makes the results of the "investigation" somewhat suspect, to say the least. And, the UC Davis IACUC meets behind closed doors; the public is not allowed to attend the meetings. And, UC Davis took in over $21,540,000 in federal grants for it primate experimentation program in 2005 (more every year.) And, individuals and institutions involved with primate experimentation have a long history of lying to the public.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Marilyn E. Carroll’s Junk Science

According to The Partnership for a Drug Free America,
PCP, or phencyclidine, is a dissociative anesthetic that was developed in the 1950s as a surgical anesthetic.

People who use PCP for long periods report memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. These symptoms can persist up to a year after cessation of PCP use. Mood disorders also have been reported.
How common is PCP use? Here are figures reported by Quest Diagnostics, a commercial workplace drug-testing lab.
Rates by Drug Category
(For Federally-Mandated, Safety-Sensitive Workforce, as a Percentage of All Such Tests) (More than 2.0 million tests from January to December 2006)

Drug Category 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

Amphetamines 0.28% 0.35% 0.31% 0.29% 0.28%
Cocaine 0.58% 0.60% 0.57% 0.59% 0.56%
Marijuana 0.94% 1.10% 1.25% 1.34% 1.44%
Opiates 0.17% 0.18% 0.17% 0.19% 0.19%
PCP 0.03% 0.04% 0.04% 0.04% 0.04%
I mention all of this because it is germane to the animal research community’s claims that there is strong competition for federal grants, and that only important studies addressing important problems, and asking important questions get approved and funded. For instance, the National Association for Biomedical Research says
The National Institutes of Health—the single major source of federal funding for biomedical research in this country—currently can support only about one-quarter of all worthy research proposals due to limited available funding. Certainly, scarce funds are not awarded for studies which will not add significantly to biomedical research.
Looking at the numbers above, apparently, about 1% of people who are in positions with federally mandated drug testing, test positive for marijuana use; about 1/2 of 1% test positive for cocaine; about 2/10 of 1% test positive for “opiates” (essentially, the only opiate used is heroin); and 3/100 of 1% test positive for PCP.

Marilyn E. Carroll, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota.

Carroll’s funding, FY 2006 - 2002:

2R01DA003240-23 "Vulnerability to Drug Abuse and Treatment Efficacy: Animal Models" $323,377, $290,344, $290,538, $290,775, $290,909.
“Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The overall objective of this research application is to focus on major vulnerability factors in drug abuse, including avidity for nondrug rewards, impulsive behavior, sex, and ovarian hormones, and determine how groups with differing vulnerability levels respond to treatment efforts.”

3R01DA002486-26 "A PRIMATE MODEL OF DRUG ABUSE: INTERVENTION STRATEGIES" $74,749, $293,217, $293,236, $293,256, ($56,000 + $293,274)
“Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The main objective of this research is to develop nonhuman primate models (rhesus monkeys) of critical aspects of addiction that will yield useful information for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse."

5K05DA015267-05 "Models for the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Abuse" $117,330, $117,330, $117,330, $117,330, $117,330.
“Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The objective of this K05 application is to obtain salary support for release time from teaching and administrative duties not directly related to research. This would increase time allocated to research from 40% before the K05 to 75-90.”

Some recent publications:

Social stimuli enhance phencyclidine (PCP) self-administration in rhesus monkeys. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007.

Impulsivity (delay discounting) for food and cocaine in male and female rats selectively bred for high and low saccharin intake. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007.

Acquisition of i.v. cocaine self-administration in adolescent and adult male rats selectively bred for high and low saccharin intake. Physiol Behav. 2007.

Regulation of intravenous cocaine self-administration in rats selectively bred for high (HiS) and low (LoS) saccharin intake. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007.

Estrogen receptor beta, but not alpha, mediates estrogen's effect on cocaine-induced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior in ovariectomized female rats. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007.

Reinforcing effects of smoked methamphetamine in rhesus monkeys. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006.

Effects of menstrual cycle phase on the reinforcing effects of phencyclidine (PCP) in rhesus monkeys. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006.

Escalation of i.v. cocaine self-administration and reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior in rats bred for high and low saccharin intake. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Jun;186(2):235-45.

Sex differences in physical dependence on orally self-administered phencyclidine (PCP) in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2006.

Wheel running as a predictor of cocaine self-administration and reinstatement in female rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005.

Effect of short- vs. long-term estrogen on reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior in female rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2005.

Sex differences in the escalation of oral phencyclidine (PCP) self-administration under FR and PR schedules in rhesus monkeys. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005.

Escalation of intravenous cocaine self-administration, progressive-ratio performance, and reinstatement in rats selectively bred for high (HiS) and low (LoS) saccharin intake. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005.

You’ll notice that her grants, 2R01DA003240-23 and 3R01DA002486-26 each end with a -xx. The digits following the dash indicate the years of funding. In other words, as of FY 2006, 2R01DA003240-23 "Vulnerability to Drug Abuse and Treatment Efficacy: Animal Models" has been funded for 23 years, and 3R01DA002486-26 "A PRIMATE MODEL OF DRUG ABUSE: INTERVENTION STRATEGIES" has been funded for 26 years.

Right now, we the people, are paying her almost three quarters of a million dollars a year to write about the effects of PCP on monkeys and cocaine-seeking behavior in rats. It makes no different to the NIH or to her university that rats don’t seek cocaine or that monkeys don’t use PCP. Or, that her research has contributed nothing to helping the small number of people with a cocaine addiction or the infinitesimally minute number of people using PCP regularly.

Or, obviously, that she’s been torturing rats and monkeys for over a quarter of a century.

Oral phencyclidine (PCP) self-administration in rhesus monkeys: effects of feeding conditions. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1980.

Carroll’s is a good example of the garbage science funded by the NIH. And imagine the crap that isn’t funded if this is an example of some of the best.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Let Them Go

Looking at the satellite photos of the large monkey prisons made me wonder (again) about what should be done with all the monkeys and apes currently being held in these facilities, in zoos, in sanctuaries, and in private hands.

We should release them.

Few people continue to argue that these animals’ subjective experiences are drastically different from our own. British human rights campaigner Peter Thatchel, wrote on July 11, 2007, that
It is widely recognised that primates are thinking, feeling creatures with many human-like traits, including affection, intelligence and altruism. Evidence suggests that imprisonment and invasive experiments cause them physical and psychological damage in ways not dissimilar to that experienced by humans who are subjected to comparable suffering.
So, if we have a smidgeon of pretense that we respect the rights of others because of some rational set of characteristics, we must stop hurting these animals and end their incarceration as soon as possible.

Here’s what we should do.

We can’t return these animals to their homelands. In many cases, they were born in the U.S. and have lived their lives in an institution. The wild caught monkeys have now been exposed to a cacophony of human pathogens that should not be transmitted into wild populations. And, of course, many of these animals would simply be killed, recaptured and resold if they were returned.

We can though, and should, release them in southern Florida and maybe in other areas that have suitably warm winters.

They should be sterilized prior to release. They should be provisioned for the remainder of their lives. This is the nation’s responsibility.

In some cases, large colonies already exist and could be released almost immediately. The large baboon colonies at Southwest and the vervet colony at UCLA could be released in the southwest right now. Groups of squirrel monkeys, marmosets, tamarins, and others exist across the county and could be released in Florida right away. The same is true for group-housed animals at zoos and sanctuaries.

Some macaques are already living in groups, and these animals could be transported and released right away.

In some cases, especially among the thousands of individually housed macaques in the labs, effort should be undertaken to carefully establish groups prior to release. In some cases, dispersed releases of single animals or very small groups might be appropriate.

For humane reasons, severely debilitated animals might require continued captivity. This captivity would, however, need to be as unrestrictive as possible.

The same procedures should be used with chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas as well; it would be prudent to release them on islands to reduce the likelihood of human confrontations.

Undoubtedly, these releases will affect the local ecosystems; this will be a diminishing impact over time as the populations are naturally reduced. This is part of the cost of having brought them here in the first place.

There is plenty of publicly owned property suitable for this purpose. The cost of moving the animals and provisioning them is a diminishing and tiny fraction of the current cost of breeding them, housing them, and experimenting on them.

There really isn’t another ethical choice. Legitimate sanctuaries hold these animals in zoo-like settings simply because it is currently the only option other than killing them.

We should let them go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thousands of Historical Images Available On-line

Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Figure 1: profile of "Apollo" Figure 2: profile of a black man Figure 3: profile of an ape
From: Histoire naturelle du genre humain
By: Julien Joseph Virey
Published: F. DufartParis 1801 (An IX)
Volume 2Plate IV


The Wellcome Institute has opened part of its large collection of images related to medicine and science to the public, and has made them freely available on-line.

They are worth perusing.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Covance, Alice, TX

Another giant monkey colony.

Monkeys that end up here are generally doomed to be used in various contracted product tesing procedures in the Covance labs at places like Madison, Wisconsin and Vienna, Virginia. The monkeys here were probably in a jungle somewhere in Asia before being caught and shipped. These are wild animals and undoubtedly very frightened. They should be.

This is the facility where ebola has shown up twice. Once on January 31, 1990, and again in March 1996. Over the past 10 years, Covance has imported over 60,000 monkeys into the U.S.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Where are the Monkeys?

Here's a set of satellite images of the eight NIH national primate research centers and the New Iberia Primate Center. These are links to Google maps.

Note: For whatever reason, the links sometimes go to just the map. You might need to click Satellite or Hybrid in the upper right hand corner to access the satellite image.

California National Primate Research Center University of California, Davis. Davis, CA. Just under 5000 monkeys acording to PIN. They are working to increase the population to 7000.

New England National Primate Research Center Harvard University. Southborough, MA. About 1400 monkeys, according to PIN.

New Iberia University of Louisiana at Lafayette. (Sometimes refered to as the University of Southwestern Louisiana.) New Iberia, Louisiana. New Iberia is so large that it is difficult to get it all into a single image that is recognizable. The main entrance is to the north of Hanger Drive. The main entrance is marked by the large circular building. The dots in ordered rows are all corn cribs. The row of buildings along W. Admiral Doyle Drive, include the chimpanzee housing. Continuing south along W. Admiral Drive, you can make out additional rows of corn cribs that I have always assumed is the SPF colony. According to PIN, there are about 5000 primates here.

Oregon National Primate Research Center Oregon Health Sciences University. Hillsboro, Oregon. Oregon once billed itself as the largest supplier of rhesus macaques in the U.S. The large rectangular areas are outdoor breedoing corrals. There are just under 4000 monkeys, according to PIN.

Southwest National Primate Research Center (really, just the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research.) San Antonio, TX. The circular corrals are, I think, where the 3000 baboons are held. According to PIN, there are about 3500 primates here, including 250 chimpanzees.

Tulane National Primate Research Center. Covington, LA. The buildings north of Three Rivers Road are the labs and administration buildings. To the south is the giant outdoor cage area. There are close to 4500 monkeys here, according to PIN. But the data is not up to date. There are probably more. If you zoom out, you can see that there is green space leading all the way to Lake Pontchartrain. This is generally subtropical Louisiana swamp forest, much better habitat for a macaque than the mesh cages they are in right now.

Washington National Primate Research Center. University of Washington. Seattle, WA. Tucked away within the Hutchinson Health Sciences Cenetr, once billed as the largest area under one roof in the world, are 1000s of monkeys. Wahington has colonies scattered across the globe. PIN doesn't mention a number.

Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and the Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory. University of Wisconsin. madison, WI. Approximately 2000 monkeys, combined. The large buiding to the north is the main primate center building. To the south are another primate center building (to the west) and the Harlow lab (to the east.) Immediately between the main primate center building and the Harlow lab are five smaller buildings. This is the future home of the National Primate Research Exhibition Hall. Here's a color-coded view.

Yerkes National Primate Research Center (Emory University). Atlanta, GA. Just under 3000 primates, including approx 200 chimpanzees, according to PIN.

This is the Yerkes Field Station in Lawrenceville.

Covance, Alice, TX.


ALPHA GENESIS, INC. [previously, Labs of Virginia]
Macaca mulatta (4000+) Macaca fascicularis (1000+) Cebus apella (50+) Others (100+) Many offsight on Morgan Island.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Reciprocity in Rats

Reciprocity in Rats
Claudia Rutte, Michael Taborsky*

1 Department of Behavioral Ecology, Institute of Zoology, University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland

The evolution of cooperation among nonrelatives has been explained by direct, indirect, and strong reciprocity. Animals should base the decision to help others on expected future help, which they may judge from past behavior of their partner. Although many examples of cooperative behavior exist in nature where reciprocity may be involved, experimental evidence for strategies predicted by direct reciprocity models remains controversial; and indirect and strong reciprocity have been found only in humans so far. Here we show experimentally that cooperative behavior of female rats is influenced by prior receipt of help, irrespective of the identity of the partner. Rats that were trained in an instrumental cooperative task (pulling a stick in order to produce food for a partner) pulled more often for an unknown partner after they were helped than if they had not received help before. This alternative mechanism, called generalized reciprocity, requires no specific knowledge about the partner and may promote the evolution of cooperation among unfamiliar nonrelatives.

Generalized Reciprocity in Rats
Rutte C, Taborsky M
PLoS Biology Vol. 5, No. 7, e196 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050196

Mengele Loved Children

I was working for IDA when Matt Rossell's photographs and videos were publicized. He had carefully documented the condition s inside the NIH Oregon primate center during the two years he worked there. Both Dr. Isis Johnson-Brown, the USDA official responsible for inspecting the Oregon facility, and Jane Goodall made public statements about the horrible conditions there.

These two images are captures from a video Matt made while an older male monkey was being electro-ejaculated.



Matt explained these images: "Jaws, monkey #14609, the 21-year-old rhesus macaque depicted here, is a long time veteran of this procedure and his penis has been shocked hundreds of times."

The reality of life within the NIH Oregon primate center (and other labs like it) make the news item below especially distateful and dishonest. It would be like reading a story from Nazi Germany about Josef Mengele holding a birthday party for one of the twins he was vivisecting. This is not so unlikely given the propaganda and lies being told at the time. In fact, his pockets were full of candy. He petted and played with the children before torturing them to advance medical science.

These labs love monkeys the way Mengele human loved children.

OHSU staff celebrates birthday of oldest monkey at Oregon Primate Research

Associated Press - July 2, 2007 4:05 PM ET

BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) - Today, a Japanese Macaque and the oldest monkey at the Oregon National Primate Research Center is turning 34. That's 102 human years.

Staff at the primate center's Behavioral Sciences Unit is throwing a birthday party for Trapper, the troop of monkeys he lives with and their animal care staff.

The party will feature "kiddie pools" filled with sugar-free Jello for the monkeys to eat and play in and presents filled with foraging treats for Trapper and the other monkeys.

The party is from two to three pm at OHS-Us Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton. It's about one block south of Walker Road.

Trapper's mother, Twiggy, was among 55 Japanese snow monkeys that arrived at the center in 1965.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Adventures in Science and Ethics

Scienceblogs is a gateway to a number of blogs written my (mostly) people working in a science-related field. It's worth checking out.

One of the blogs, Adventures in Science and Ethics, is written by Janet D. Stemwedel, an assistant professor of philosophy at San Jose State University. She has a PhD in physical chemistry. She teaches a course on ethics for science majors.

She does a pretty good job when discussing basic issues like plagiarism or scientific misconduct. Her posts related to the use of animals and animal rights activism offer insights into ivory tower perceptions of activists and the issues involved.

She appears reluctant to address the animal issue head on. Her comments seem biased and confused. In any case, for those with an interest in the ethics education future vivisectors are receiving, Stemwedel's blog offers occasionally interesting insights.