Friday, February 24, 2012

UW's Trivial Justification for Killing Monkeys

A friend whose opinion I value, wrote to me and said that after reading my post, UW Issues Misleading Press Release a couple of times, that he didn't get my point. He suggested that a better, easier-for-the-public-to-understand title might have been something along the lines of: "UW Vivisectors Mistreat Monkeys to Prove What We Already Know."

He makes a good point. I forget sometimes that most readers haven't read every word I've written and haven't attended every talk I've given (though a few actually have!) As a result, many readers may not know how often and regularly vivisectors and the institutions that harbor them mislead the public.

The suggested title, "UW Vivisectors Mistreat Monkeys to Prove What We Already Know," would have reflected my fundamental motivation for calling attention to the UW's press release, and I should have been more explicit about how the monkeys were used.

The paper hyped by the UW was:

Body Weight Impact on Puberty: Effects of High-Calorie Diet on Puberty Onset in Female Rhesus Monkeys. Terasawa E, Kurian JR, Keen KL, Shiel NA, Colman RJ, Capuano SV. Endocrinology. 2012.

Unlike much of Terasawa's other research, where she keeps monkeys restrained for hours on end and pumps various chemicals into their brains, this study was much less grueling for the monkeys she used.

The eight monkeys were pair housed when they were 10 months old and separated with a sliding mesh panel while they ate. One monkey was then fed a high calorie diet while the other one was fed the standard lab diet. They had weekly blood draws, but the method used wasn't described. Two methods are common -- either "knocking down" monkeys with ketamine, or else pressing the monkeys tightly against the front of the cage with a "squeeze-back" cage mechanism.

They had physical examinations every month, and again the method of controlling them wasn't described, but a ketamine injection while being physically restrained is likely.

Precocious menarche (their first menstrual period) was seen in the high calorie monkeys when they were between approximately 18 and 21 months old. At that point both of the moneys in the pair were killed. Their brains and various tissues were saved "for later analysis."

Comparatively, these eight young monkeys weren't treated so badly. They weren't intentionally infected with a deadly disease, didn't have their eyes mutilated, didn't their brains burned with acid, weren't intentionally frightened, and weren't kept in solitary confinement. They were relatively lucky compared to most of the 2000 monkeys at UW-Madison who do have the things listed above done to them.

The press release that accompanied the publication of this paper was written by the UW-Madison Public Relations specialist, Jordana Lenon. She has a long history of making things up and spinning the truth about what goes on at the primate center, which is to be expected. Her job is the production of propaganda.

In this case, she claimed that Terasawa's "discovery" that monkeys on a high calorie diet reach puberty before monkeys on a "normal" diet will help human children.

Though attributed to one of the paper's authors, it was most likely Lenon who wrote:
The findings suggest the increased importance of closely monitoring children's eating behaviors and intervening as necessary to reduce the prevalence of precocious development and metabolic diseases in adulthood. Such diseases include type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease and metabolic syndrome...
But this, as my friend suggested with the better title, is something that has been increasingly talked and written about.

Fortunately, few public health agencies have been waiting on a study in monkeys to start advising parents to control their children's weight. See for instance: "Healthy Weight - it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle!"

And, it isn't news that a higher body mass index in girls is a risk factor for premature puberty. For instance, a paper published in 2001 reported on the results of an analysis of 17,077 girls (rather than four monkeys fed a high calorie diet.) The authors note in their introduction that:
A trend for earlier timing of menarche in several countries has been documented for the period from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s and presumably is related to improved health and nutrition. It has been established that overweight girls tend to mature earlier than lean girls.
They conclude that:
The results are consistent with obesity's being an important contributing factor to the earlier onset of puberty in girls. Factors other than obesity, however, perhaps genetic and/or environmental ones, are needed to explain the higher prevalence of early puberty in black versus white girls. [Earlier onset of puberty in girls: relation to increased body mass index and race. Kaplowitz PB, Slora EJ, Wasserman RC, Pedlow SE, Herman-Giddens ME. Pediatrics. 2001.]
Their conclusion begs the question of whether results from monkeys will mean much of anything for human girls, white or black.

The Terasawa study, hyped by the university and then reported on by a number of media outlets, had nothing new to report, relative to human health. The eight monkeys were used and killed only to satisfy vivisectors' curiosity. The fact that these monkeys' deaths were approved ahead of time by an oversight committee is evidence that even the most trivial of reasons are deemed adequate justification for using and killing monkeys in university labs.

The subsequent PR hyping by the primate center propagandist is evidence that any experiment, no matter how worthless, is later claimed to be life-saving, and in this case, will probably lead to the prevention of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease!

So, I hope I have explained here my visceral reaction to the press release from the university ballyhooing this cruel worthless use of animals whose minds and emotions are so much like our own.

Some readers probably don't know much about Ei Terasawa's work and problems on campus. What follows is a brief summary:

Ei Terasawa's experiments have a long history and are clearly cruel. The USDA caught her violating her approved protocols. Her animal use was suspended by the university as a result. See the 2004 letter to her from the UW grad School ACUC here.

Briefly, in compliance with her UW-approved protocols, she was keeping female monkeys in restraint chairs, sometimes for days, and using a technique called a push-pull perfusion to "push" anyone of very many chemicals deep into the monkeys' brains, and to "pull"out the chemicals that resulted after the cells were exposed to them.

This was done repeatedly to the monkeys she was using.

Her approved protocol required constant observation by a technician. In the case that was discovered by a USDA inspector, the technician had taken a lunch break and the container holding the artificial cerebrospinal fluid that was being used as a medium to deliver the chemicals to the monkey's brain, went dry. Apparently, air was being pumped into the monkey's brain and she died. She was an elderly monkey who had undoubtedly endured a lifetime of privation and torment. Here's an internal report on some of the problems in Terasawa's lab.

Her "privileges" were reinstated, but the committee -- the same committee that had been repeatedly approving her methods for seventeen years -- decided that she could no longer use her preferred push-pull procedure, and she would have to use something quite similar but with a less disturbing name, called micro dialysis, which she continues to use.

In a recent paper in Endocrinology she explains her current methods: [Developmental Increase in Kisspeptin-54 Release in Vivo Is Independent of the Pubertal Increase in Estradiol in Female Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Kathryn A. Guerriero, Kim L. Keen, and Ei Terasawa, Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.]
Fifteen prepubertal (13.1–21.0 months of age) and 12 pubertal (28.2–45.8 months of age) female rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were used in this study. All animals were born and raised at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and housed in pairs (cages 172 X 86 X 86 cm)....

All animals were well adapted to the primate chair, experimental conditions, and researchers before experimentation. At least 1 month before microdialysis experiments, all animals were surgically implanted with a cranial pedestal under isoflurane anesthesia .... On the day of the microdialysis experiment, the monkey was anesthetized ... and then placed in a stereotaxic apparatus. A microdrive unit, which allows for three-dimensional adjustment, was secured on the cranial pedestal, and a guide cannula with an inner stylet was inserted into the skull 5 mm above the S-ME using the microdrive unit....

Immediately after the guide cannula placement, the monkey was removed from the stereotaxic apparatus and placed in a primate chair. The inner stylet was then removed and a microdialysis probe ... was inserted into the guide cannula so that the tip of the probe was located in the S-ME ... Central nervous system perfusion fluid ... was infused through the influx tubing .... Dialysates were collected... Experiments were conducted for up to 12 h, during which the animal was provided monkey chow, fresh fruit, other snacks, and water, and allowed in close proximity to a partner monkey for visualization and vocalization. After the experiments, monkeys were returned to their home cage for at least 1 month before participating in a subsequent microdialysis experiment.
S-ME is shorthand for stalk median eminence, the small strand of brain tissue that connects the pituitary gland to the brain. The pituitary gland rests in a small pocket of bone. In other words, she's pushing a metal tube from the top of their head all the way to the very deepest recess of their brain. This image may give you an idea of the gland's location. Monkeys undergo this procedure many times.

UW Study Offers Insight Into Earlier Puberty For Girls">
Study Using Primates Published In Endocrinology Journal
February 8, 2012

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