A short response letter appeared in this week's Isthmus:
I'm glad you wrote about primate research at UW ("Man Over Monkey," 7/16/10), but I wish more emphasis had been given to the amazing medical advances it has generated instead of insinuating that UW just does it for the grant money.
Whenever I read a letter like this, I wonder about the author. Why didn't Jess Otis mention any of these purported "amazing advances"? So I did a little on line sleuthing.
I can't say definitively of course that the Jess Otis who penned this little letter is the same Jess Otis in the UW-Madison vet school's Comparative Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, but I'll wager she is. It appears that Jess (Jessica) experiments on thirteen-lined ground squirrels in Dr. Hannah Carey's lab.
Summaries of Recent Projects:
Gene expression and signaling pathways in cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism in hibernation. Lab member: Jessica P. Otis, B.S.
Mammalian hibernators switch from a carbohydrate-based to a lipid-based metabolism during the long winter fast of hibernation. Plasma cholesterol levels increase about 2-fold during the winter months, but the mechanisms responsible for this change and its functional role in hibernator physiology are poorly understood. This project examines gene expression and signaling pathways related to cholesterol, lipoprotein and bile acid metabolism in ground squirrels during the seasonal cycle of feeding and fasting.
Here's a description of part of one of the the experiments this Jess worked on:
METHODS AND MATERIALS...
Animals. All procedures were approved by the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) of both sexes were trapped in the vicinity of Madison, WI. Other squirrels were obtained as pups born in captivity from pregnant females trapped in spring. Squirrels were housed individually at 22°C with a 12:12 h light-dark cycle with free access to water and food (Purina rodent chow 7001, supplemented with sunflower seeds) except for pups born in captivity, which were food-restricted after weaning (12 g chow/day). Prior experience indicated this level of daily intake prevents excessive weight gain, which is common in ground squirrel pups born in captivity, yet allows them to gain weight at a rate similar to wild-caught animals. Squirrels were held in these conditions for at least 1 mo before use in experiments. Summer-active squirrel (SUM) squirrels were collected from the wild in early summer and, based on body mass, were judged to be at least 1 yr old (and therefore had hibernated in the wild for at least one winter). In August, other squirrels were implanted with temperature-sensitive radio telemeters (VitalView S3000; Minimitter, Bend, OR), and Tb was monitored every 2 min during the hibernation season. In September- October, squirrels were transferred to a room maintained at 4°C. The room was dark except for brief periods ... of low lighting once per day to check activity state. Water and food were removed after squirrels began regular bouts of torpor. SUM animals were killed in late July/early August ... after an overnight fast. Hibernating squirrels were killed in one of four states: entering torpor ...; late torpor, ... 7 d in torpor ...; arousing from torpor ... ; and interbout arousal .... Summer squirrels and hibernators ... were killed by decapitation after isoflurane anesthesia, and LT squirrels were decapitated without prior anesthetic. After laparotomy liver tissue was harvested and immediately frozen in liquid nitrogen. Nelson, C.J., Otis, J.P., Martin, S.L. and H.V. Carey. 2009. Analysis of the hibernation cycle using LC-MS based metabolomics in ground squirrel liver. Physiological Genomics 37:43-51 [Full Article(PDF)]
If this Jess Otis is the Jess Otis who wrote the letter, then she wasn't forthcoming about her vested interest and bias. I doubt that she actually could name many "amazing advances." And certainly she would be hard pressed to find many if any that have stemmed from Kaufman's research or the research taking place at the primate center.
Maybe an easier task for her, given her area of specialty, would be to name a few amazing advances that have resulted from capturing ground squirrels and killing them. I can't wait.
[If these are two different Jess Otises, then I apologize to the Carey lab Jess Otis for suggesting that she was less than honest for not identifying herself as a UW-Madison vivisector, and I say thank you to the honest other Jess Otis (assuming that he/she isn't involved in animal experimentation) for writing the letter that led me to notice the hideousnesses occurring in the Carey lab.]