Thursday, September 4, 2008

Research negligence results in death

“Baby's smell tamps down dad's testosterone levels”

First, read the UW press release.

Now read the local insightful coverage from the local newspaper.

I wonder whether the CapTimes story would receive a high mark in a journalism class?

I shouldn’t be too critical since the entire story is taken almost verbatim from the UW news release; how could they have known the back-story?

Spinmeister Terry Devitt typically leaves out the big Whys? or the dark details; instead he writes a piece about the oh-so-cute little monkey dads. His job after all is to put the university in as good a light as possible, to entertain the public with his right hand and cover up the dirt with his left.

So, what didn’t he say and what didn’t the CapTimes know?

Two marmosets died in research associated with this news article. In the most egregious case, researchers violated the approved protocol and neglected to monitor a monkey while they scanned his brain in an fMRI machine at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW).

The protocol, the document approved by the UW-Madison Graduate School IACUC guaranteeing that the research is very important and humanely conducted, they tell us, stipulated that the vital signs of the monkeys used in the study would be recorded every 15 minutes while they were being scanned.

The moneys are anesthetized, placed into a restraint device, and then revived. Then they are placed in the magnet and scanned while being exposed to various scents. One of the monkeys squirmed apparently, and dislodged the temperature probe that was in his rectum.

The researchers also thought that due to the monkey’s movements – his efforts to free himself – that the other recordings – respiration and heart rate – were unreliable. The monkey was scanned, apparently, for an extended period of time.

Unlike the federal violations that occurred in the Terasawa affair, when a monkey having chemicals pushed and pulled into and out of her brain died while the technician was at lunch, in this case, senior researchers were present and negligent. In the Terasawa affair, Terasawa was banned from using monkeys for two years and the technician quit or was asked to resign.

In a letter to Axel V. Wolff, Director of the Division of Compliance Oversight, Office of Laboratory Animals Welfare, NIH, David Gutterman, Senior Associate Dean of Research at MCW, wrote that: “The animals were being studied in the physical presence of Dr. Craig Ferris, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Schultz-Darken was also present.”

Oddly, since most protocols have a single primary investigator (PI), this one had three. Gutterman explained: “The protocol was initially approved at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (UW); the PI there is Nancy Schultz-Darken, PhD.... an MCW faculty member will be the PI responsible for an outside researcher using our imaging facility.... Dr. ShiJiang Li assumed this role of the PI for this experiment.” Named as the PI in the UW primate center annual report is Craig Ferris.

The relevant portion of the approved protocol indicates that during the imaging session in the MR unit, the animal would be monitored for body temperature, heart rate, respiration rate, and oxygen saturation.... Values were to be recorded every 15 minutes. Ranges for all the parameters noted were given, and if any of the values recorded deviated from previously noted ranges, and correction attempts failed, the individual study would be terminated.... Mr. Mat Brevard, operator of the scanner from the University of Massachusetts, physically observed the animal and identified no respiratory abnormalities or apparent behavioral changes. He also touched the animal and did not perceive any noticeable increase in body temperature. Dr. Ferris therefore proceeded with the imaging session despite the inability to perform the required monitoring. The MCW veterinarian present at the time concurred with this decision prior to leaving the room. The animal was found deceased when it emerged from the magnet. The exact time of death was uncertain.

It was later said that the monkey’s brain had over heated.

What were Ferris and Schultz-Darken doing while the monkey was being cooked? What kind of scientists promise in writing to monitor an animal’s vital signs and then determine that poking him is just as good?

This whole affair is indicative of the crap that’s passed off as science and meaningful oversight and paid for by the taxpayer.

And what happened to Ferris and Schultz-Darken as a result of this gross and fatal violation of federal regulations? Apparently, nothing whatsoever. In fact, today, Schultz-Darken is the chair of the UW Graduate School IACUC.

And finally, as if more evidence of the system’s failure is needed, Devitt neglected to say that the research itself is beyond speculative. The scent-informed world of marmoset physiology, behavior, and motivation is worlds away from our own. Using marmosets to study scent-induced behavior in humans is like using dolphins to study walking.

1 comment:

dr. shawna murray md said...

dr. craig ferris had multiple complaints against him and his lab for sexual discrimination of women ...the psychiatry department and institution has had a long history of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and battering of women...many women in the department have lost their jobs and developed physical and psychological symptoms...a women patient was forced into an unethical research study conducted by the psychiatry department, and died after suffering terribly for about a month or so...