Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Sheep. Spin, spin, spin.

No fines for sheep deaths at UW-Madison
By DEBORAH ZIFF. Wisconsin State Journal. October 8, 2009.

UW-Madison researchers violated state law when 26 sheep died in experiments on decompression sickness, but Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard won't prosecute the university because the infraction is relatively minor, he wrote in an opinion.
A few excerpts:
"We're trying to decide now that we have this information how to proceed," [Eric] Sandgren said.
I wonder what he means by this? Now that the university and the researchers know they won't be prosecuted or fined? Now that they know this is illegal? Now that they know what? (Previous posts that mention Eric Sandgren.)

If it's the latter, that they didn't know that killing animals by means of decompression was illegal, and that's how I read his comment, it must mean that the animal research oversight committees have never taken the time to learn what the state laws are regarding the treatment of animals. If that's what he meant, that they are just now learning that what they've been doing since 1986 is a violation of Wisconsin's "Crimes Against Animals" statutes (Chapter 951), it speaks poorly for their interest in the public's desires and wishes as spelled out in the state's legal code and paints the UW vivisectors as being just as arrogant and self-important as I have ever imagined them to be.
The studies are funded by the U.S. Navy and other federal and state agencies. UW-Madison is one of three main sites where such research is conducted, Sandgren said.
This claims seems to be rooted in something other than reality. One of three main sites?

Here's another chance to use PubMed to put a vivisector's claims to the test.

The key paper here, the most recently published paper by UW vivisectors on the topic of decompressing sheep is Oxygen pre-breathing decreases dysbaric diseases in UW sheep undergoing hyperbaric exposure. Sobakin AS, Wilson MA, Lehner CE, Dueland RT, Gendron-Fitzpatrick AP. Undersea Hyperb Med. 2008.

There are two easy ways to use PubMed to check out the veacity of this claim. 1. Look at the related articles on the right. 2. Click on each of the authors' names to access their list of indexed articles.

In the first case, and imposing the limits: "Publication Date from 2007 to 2009, Animals" results in a list of 49 items. Ten of these are comments on other papers and one is a conference announcement. The thirty-eight remaining papers are reports of scientific research. Each one includes the name of the lead author’s primary institution. The institutions named, and the number of times each one is named in one of the papers, if more than once, is listed here:

Israel Naval Medical Institute (5)
Dartmouth College
Università di Padova, Italia
University of St Andrews
Virginia Commonwealth University (3)
Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD (4)
State University of New York at Stony Brook
University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston
University of Texas Medical School, Houston
University of Virginia
Copenhagen University (3)
Naval Medical Institute, France
Ministry of Defense, Government of India, Delhi (2)
Norwegian Underwater Intervention, Bergen, Norway
George Mason University
New York College of Osteopathic Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison (the paper cited above)
Wright State University
Swedish Defence Research Agency, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
[An article in Russian]
North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium
National University of Singapore
NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
University of Dundee
[An article in Slovak]
Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, India.

From this list spanning the past three years of publications, it doesn’t appear that UW-Madison is a leader or even very involved in this area of animal experimentation, let alone “one of three main sites where such research is conducted.” Additionally, the animals used in the studies represented in the above list are primarily rats, then pigs. The UW paper is the only one using sheep.

The second way to test Sandgren’s claims with PubMed is to look at the publishing history of each of the authors in the paper cited above. You can do this by clicking on each of their names.

The authors are: Sobakin AS, Wilson MA, Lehner CE, Dueland RT, and Gendron-Fitzpatrick AP.

AS Sobakin seems to have authored only this paper.

Not surprisingly, there are many MA Wilsons. PubMed lists 492 papers authored or co-authored by an MA Wilson. Searching for papers on decompression authored by MA Wilsons again returns only this original paper.

CE Lehner has coauthored eight papers related to decompression:

Oxygen pre-breathing decreases dysbaric diseases in UW sheep undergoing hyperbaric exposure.
Sobakin AS, Wilson MA, Lehner CE, Dueland RT, Gendron-Fitzpatrick AP.
Undersea Hyperb Med. 2008

Estimation and confidence regions for multi-dimensional effective dose.
Li J, Nordheim EV, Zhang C, Lehner CE.
Biom J. 2008

Predicting risk of decompression sickness in humans from outcomes in sheep.
Ball R, Lehner CE, Parker EC.
J Appl Physiol. 1999

Dysbaric osteonecrosis in divers and caisson workers. An animal model.
Lehner CE, Adams WM, Dubielzig RR, Palta M, Lanphier EH.
Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1997

Experimental respiratory decompression sickness in sheep.
Atkins CE, Lehner CE, Beck KA, Dubielzig RR, Nordheim EV, Lanphier EH.
J Appl Physiol. 1988

An in vivo technique for the measurement of bone blood flow in animals.
Rosenthal MS, DeLuca PM Jr, Pearson DW, Nickles RJ, Lehner CE, Lanphier EH.
Phys Med Biol. 1987

Hydrogen washout in bone cortex and periosteum.
Lightfoot EN, Rudolph RF, Lenhoff AM, Lanphier EH, Lehner CE, Whiteside LA.
Undersea Biomed Res. 1986

Lack of harmful effects from simulated dives in pregnant sheep.
Bolton-Klug ME, Lehner CE, Lanphier EH, Rankin JH.
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1983

By the way, this last paper, from 1983, wasn't illegal because the statute barring killing animals by means of decompression took effect, apparently, in 1985.

This amounts to two papers in the 2000s, two papers in the 1990s, and four papers in the 1980s, or, approximately, 2.7 papers per decade.

RT Dueland has authored only one paper associated with decompression, the paper cited above.

AP Gendron-Fitzpatrick has also authored only one paper associated with decompression, the paper cited above.

Looking at the list of eight papers authored by Lehner, the names Dubielzig and Lanphier appear more than once.

Lanphier has an extensive list of diving-related publications, the majority of which are human-based studies. All but one of his animal-related experiments are those listed above coauthored with CE Lehner.

The single paper using animals, not coauthored with Lehner is:

Responses of fetal sheep to simulated no-decompression dives.
Stock MK, Lanphier EH, Anderson DF, Anderson LC, Phernetton TM, Rankin JH.
J Appl Physiol. 1980.

Lanphier’s last paper was published in 1997 and is listed above.

RR Dubielzig has an even more extensive publication list, but has authored only two papers associated with decompression, both listed above.

So far, there does not appear to be much evidence supporting Eric Sandgren’s claim that the UW is “one of three main sites where such research is conducted.”

Another way to test his claim is to search the UW-Madison website looking for references to diving physiology. There is one tantalizing bit of evidence in support of Sandgren's claim. There is an obsure reference to Marlowe Eldridge, M.D. being the Director of the Diving Physiology Laboratory. But this is the only reference to such a facility. Marlow Eldridge's lab's webpage makes no mention of such a lab but does mention two funded studies on diving. His publication list mentions nothing about decompression in sheep. One of his grants is

Improving Risk Estimation, Safety and Cost-effectiveness in Scuba Diving.
Principal Investigator: Marlowe Eldridge M.D.
Agency: COMM NOAA # A06OAR417001 (144PD98)
Status: Funded 03/01/2006 – 01/31/2008 ($268,177)

The major goal of this project is to improve risk estimation and improve strategies to minimize decompression illness in recreational and occupational scuba drivers.,

The other, and the likely source for Sandgren's claim, is

Neurological Decompression Injury: Is Deep Stop Decompression Protective?
Principal Investigator: Marlowe Eldridge M.D.

Agency: DOD Navy

Status: Pending 10/01/2008-09/31/2011 (~$1,300,000)

This major goal ofthese studies is to improve our understanding of neurological decompression sickness and help evaluate deep stop use as a protective decompression strategy. We will use our established sheep model of the diver to determine the effects of various decompression scenarios with and without a deep stop on neurological decompression sickness. A variety of MR imaging techniques, will be used evaluate for subtle neurological injury and more importantly to gain insight into the mechanisms that may contribute to decompression neuronal injury.

But $1.3 million over four years is hardly enough to make Eldridge's lab “one of three main sites where such research is conducted.”

Another piece of evidence that might be said to support Sandgren’s claim is an old UW webpage named "Milestone Accomplishments, 1972-1997."

Under the section: Milestones in UW Sea Grant Diving Physiology and Safety Research, 1972-97, there are three bulleted claims:
Prototype development of wristwatch "dive computers" that calculate and alert a diver to remaining air supplies and the proper length of ascent decompression stops — now a standard part of scuba diving equipment.

Leading research on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of decompression sickness — including the risks diving poses to the fetuses of pregnant women, and the discovery of "limb bends," bone death, "the chokes" and paralyzing spinal cord hits among commercial and recreational divers who repeatedly make short, deep "bounce" dives.

Investigation of the under-estimated risks of panic among divers, especially in cold waters like the Great Lakes, and the development of a test that predicts with 88 percent accuracy which novice divers are prone to panic.
The only part of the above claims that is related to the decompression of the sheep is the part about potential risks diving poses to the fetuses of pregnant women, but even this is suspect. In Scuba Diving Explained: Questions and Answers on Physiology and Medical Aspects of Scuba Diving (1997), author Lawrence Martin, M.D. writes:
WHAT ABOUT DIVING DURING PREGNANCY?

A short exposure to increased ambient pressure, per se, appears of no consequence to the fetus. However some studies on pregnant animals have shown an increased rate of fetal abnormality from decompression sickness, particularly among sheep; different studies in other animals have not shown an ill effect on the fetus. Like many other medical conditions, the available studies on this issue are inconclusive.

Based on what is known about pregnancy, and about diving, my recommendation (and that of most physicians) is that pregnant women should not dive.
And even the claim about wristwatch "dive computers" seems sketchy. See Scuba Diving History and something about the real inventors of the “dive computer,” Craig Barshinger, and Karl Huggins.

Sandgren claims that UW Madison is one of three main sites where such research is conducted. As I showed above by listing the locations of the institutions where decompression experiments on animals are being conducted, UW Madison isn’t one of the three main sites. But maybe Sandgren was being circumspect and was claiming that UW was one of only three Sea Grant Schools. But even on this point, if that is what he was claiming, he’d also be wrong.

If you visit the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant site, and click on Research, nothing is mentioned about diving physiology or decompression. On the page called "Water Safety & Recreation," under the section titled "Related Research," we finally come to something that might be germane titled, “Improving Safety and Efficiency in Scuba Diving.” But, alas, the link from there is broken; this, apparently is a gateway to research that might lend credence to Sandgren’s claim that UW-Madison is "one of three main sites where such research is conducted."

And finally, Sandgren claims that: “They've made important discoveries that are used now, that are applied, in the case of individual diving sicknesses.”

Like what?

According to the BBC, decompression experiments on goats were suspended in the United Kingdom in March 2007. A UK Ministry of Defense review committee examined non-animal methods for studying decompression sickness. Defense Secretary Des Browne stated that: “The review has concluded that the remaining associated areas of uncertainty in submarine escape and rescue relate to events that are considered highly unlikely and do not therefore need to be addressed by means of animal testing.”

Just what is it, does Sandgren feel, that came out of those eight papers published by vivisectors at UW-Madison that constitute the important discoveries that are being used now to treat diving sickness? None that I can see. And if the university is "one of three main sites where such research is conducted," they are doing a damn fine job of keeping it hidden.
It is hardly to be expected that a man who does not hesitate to vivisect for the sake of science will hesitate to lie about it afterwards to protect it from what he deems the ignorant sentimentality of the laity. George Bernard Shaw. The Doctor's Dilemma. 1909.

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