Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Raining Money at UW-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s animal research program has been in the news quite a bit lately as a result of the US Department of Agriculture determining that multiple significant violations of the Animal Welfare Act (the Act) were occurring, and the National Institutes of Health determining simultaneously that multiple serious violations of the Public Heath Service regulations governing animal care and use were occurring, and that the oversight system used by the university was seriously flawed.

The university has defended its use of animals and has characterized the highly unusual joint visit by multiple inspectors from each agency as nothing out of the ordinary, very helpful, and has claimed that over-all they received favorable evaluations from the two agencies.

Read the reports, read and watch media’s interpretation, and judge for yourself. See: OLAW Report on UW-Madison.

One thing that has yet to be reported in the local papers or television stations is the university’s share of taxpayer dollars awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for its animal experimentation program. In 2009, UW-Madison was awarded somewhere between $12 and $16 million in stimulus funds for experiments on animals. The money is still rolling in; 2010 amounts have yet to be reported.

Here is a sampling:

The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center was awarded $921,484 to establish a colony of monkeys resistant to the simian immunodeficiency virus.

Christopher Coe, currently the director of the Harlow Primate Psychology Laboratory and currently a candidate for the director position of the primate center (being vacated by the semi-retirement of current director Joseph Kemnitz) was awarded an extra $141,834 for his experiments into iron deficiency during pregnancy. He explains:
To quantify placental transfer and bioavailability of iron in the neonate, an innovative approach with stable iron isotopes will be employed, contrasting absorption and transfer of 57Fe provided orally to 58Fe infused intravenously into the pregnant female. Iron-sensitive hematological measures will then be monitored in the developing infants from the stressed and undisturbed control pregnancies to prove that the postnatal iron deficiency is temporally associated with the occurrence of abnormal brain and renal functions. Based on previous findings in anemic monkeys, neural dysfunction will be indexed by the protein and metabolite profile of cerebrospinal fluid using Western blot and nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy techniques. To further demonstrate the clinical significance of these deficits, the effects of prenatal stress and anemia on renal functioning observed in other species will be verified. When infants are 8 months of age, measures of glomerular filtration rate and renal sympathetic input will be obtained. A second study will support the veracity of iron mediation hypothesis by showing that oral iron supplementation during pregnancy can lessen the effects of prenatal stress on the developing infants. The two studies are comprised of 126 mother-infant pairs of rhesus monkeys, with the behavior and physiology of each infant evaluated prospectively from birth across the first year of life. This research will contribute to the growing awareness about the formative role of the fetal period in laying the foundation for postnatal health.

Nadine Pattakos Connor was awarded $235,483. She plans to “use a progressive resistance tongue exercise program we have developed in awake rats to investigate the role of exercise in preventing or reversing age-related changes within the tongue and hypoglossal nucleus.”

Paul Kaufman was awarded $360,267 to continue his experiments on the eyes of monkeys undergoing multiple and varied manipulations of their eyes.

He has been awarded an additional $389,400 to continue his studies of near-sightedness in monkeys. He explains:
Although certainly not a blinding condition, and correctable by various optical means, presbyopia's cost in devices and lost productivity is substantial. Although much useful and relevant information has been garnered from studies in living and postmortem human eyes, the invasive techniques required to answer some of the most critical questions cannot be employed in the living human.
Luis C. Populin was awarded $140,521. He explains:
[W]e will seek to establish the relationship between the magnitude and timing of sensory responses, associated motor discharges, and resulting gaze shifts. The proposed experiments, to be carried out in a newly developed head-unrestrained monkey preparation, are a natural continuation of those carried out in the behaving, head-restrained cat during the previous funding period. The change from the cat to the monkey preparation was dictated by the questions that arose from our previous work, which cannot be adequately addressed in the cat.
He says he is justified in doing this because the results “will result in the design of better computer-brain interface devices, prostheses, smart robots, automatic system recognition devices, and ultimately help neurology/otolaryngology in devising electronic and pharmacological solutions for patients affects with sensory and sensorimotor integration diseases.”

Mary Schneider has been awarded $331,832 to continue her career-long demonstration of the harmful effects to monkeys whose mothers consumed moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

Ei Terasawa was awarded $41,283 to continue pumping chemicals deep into monkeys’ brains. She was very recently given permission by the Graduate School ACUC to increase the number of these experiments she can perform on each monkey condemned to her lab.

You too can check out the dollars flowing in and who’s being paid to do what with your money by using the National Institutes of Health’s Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT).

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