Speaking of research, Monkey Business and the human factor

There is a great article about the work done on primates at the University of Washington's Primate research center . You can read the article here  it is called Monkey Business. I have taken the liberty of relaying the twitter feed by speaking of research an advocacy group that does a really good job of informing the general public at large about animal based research, its importance and achievements.

More importantly in this article are the statement made by Peggy Smith, the Assistant Director of the WaNPRC that I am reproducing here:
For Smith, treatment methods developed in the IPRL — such as how to prevent lungs from sticking together during inhalation and exhalation, and how to keep preterm infants warm without harming them due to their fragility — are largely responsible for saving the life of her son, born three months premature with holes in his lungs, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and heart problems. He was monitored at the UW’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in an isolette — the same type used for infant nonhuman primates in the IPRL. Smith’s son, now 28 years old, survived despite Smith being told multiple times he wouldn’t.
Smith said the experience of seeing how research with nonhuman primates could be used to cure human medical conditions, particularly those of her son, convinced her of the importance of animal research despite the negative connotations that often surround it.
“If they could save my son, I didn’t care what had been done in research,” Smith said. “Your ethics become clear when you’re faced with a real-life situation. … I understand [animal-rights] activists have a point of view, they have their own reasons like I have mine. The science and facts of research speak for themselves, in my mind.”

Animal Research is not about torturing animals but about saving lives or improving them. I think this pattern is clear in the many posts I have put on my blog, for indeed it does put things in perspective. In real life situtations getting a cure or a treatment for you , your children , your family, friends and neighbours or those that suround you is what counts the most.  We all want to live long and healthy lives.

Whilst on the Speaking of research page I encourage You to take a look at recent posts about position statements on animal research by pharmaceuticals and health charities. Both these key players should do a better job at explaining why animal research matters and how it links to what they do for most of us simply have no idea how a drug is created, developped and marketed.

When it is time for a cure or during a treatment is when you need to make your point, dot the i's and cross the t's. The benefits of doing so in my mind outweigh the nuisance by animal extremists and I don't think I am the only one having this opinion. It is time to speak out towards animal research and medical advancements! Let your elected officials know YOU CARE.


El Al airlines bites the dust

Another airline became the latest victim of animal organizations: El Al. In the fight against any animal use El Al was subjected to thousands of emails, facebook messages, phone calls and boycott petition signatures as is reported here on facebook and  by South Forida Smash HLS. El Al is said to refrain from transporting Mazor farm monkeys destined to SNBL laboratories in Texas.

Whilst I have no information on what research these monkeys were destined to, what now appears as a victory to some is a right out loss to us the silent majority. Despite the savvy campaigning and marketing spin, it is simply not true that the vast majority of people are against the use of animals in research. When informed people make the difference and support research. In fact what researchers and academics alike need is our continued support, our speaking out in favor of animal research and their service providers. Not because this has to to do with torturing animals or not, but because we just can not afford to take the risk of not testing on animals, of not learning from this research what works and what doesn't. We can not afford either that governments do not stand up for health care. In this case it is Israel's high court that needs to issue a ruling in support of the research industry. This will indeed send a strong message. It is time for an international coalition against these initiatives for too much is at stake in terms of human suffering and medical progress.

We do not need to gauge emotions against emotions, the pain and suffering of animals versus the need for cures and treatments of humans. That is playing the game of animal advocates whom claim the holy ground in the name of animals. The benefits of health care can not afford to take second place behind animals. There's just no way José, sorry ain't going to work.

Take a look at this site lobbying to close NewCastle's animal lab.  None of these entities speaking on behalf of animals have been elected. They do not speak on behalf of us either but merely express an opinion. Nothing more nothing less.
Today it is El Al - who will it be tomorrow Air China, China Southern or Air France KLM ?
None of them needs to bite the dust, if only we stand behind them , United and in support of animal research ! I rest my case please rest yours.


United we stand !

Some important news caught my eyes recently and I felt it was important to share this with you:

  • The subject of animal rights extremists is of concern to most of us and airlines as we know are not immune to pressures exerted by these entities. On June 11th-12th 2012 FASEB hosted a summit on combating animal rights extremism. You can read the press release here.

Here are some of the topics discussed:
  • acts of extremism,
  • update on current tactics of animal rights groups,
  • the threat imposed by extremists internationally,
  • engaging the public about the importance of animal research.
  • Panel discussions on how to use legal and regulatory outlets to protect against extremism
  • What individuals and organizations can do to prepare against extremism.
The second day focused on preparing communication strategies on the benefits of animal research and preparing for and mitigating animal extremist actions. These recommendations will form the basis for a guidance document to be published by FASEB. Stay tuned for the final document.

I am taking the liberty of reproducing the text for those of you that want to follow the links and to be aware of what research is taking place and where it is at on some disease aspects (ex HIV etc.):
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research provided an update to the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) Council of Councils at a meeting on June 5th. Charged by the Council of Councils with developing a plan to implement the recommendations in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) report on the use of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research, the Working Group is in the midst of evaluating NIH-funded projects using chimpanzees, visiting chimpanzee facilities to observe current practices, and consulting with experts in various fields in order to draft their report. They have also reviewed all of the responses to their recent Request for Information, which elicited 110 comments (23 of which were from organizations including the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and 56 were form letters). The Working Group will provide the Council with its initial recommendations in September and submit the final report at the January 2012 meeting followed by a 60 day public comment period. Slides from the Council of Councils meeting can be found here.

That's it for me folks and thanks for reading! 


Airlines against research?

This, the use of animals in research, is not about airlines being against research.  We know, Airlines are increasingly being lobbied. They are targets for internet based email campaigns and demonstrations. Most airlines fly people and cargo, some others only cargo (very few). The very people that fly may be those that lobby against animals in research as well as those that are pro animal research. The loudest ones usually have the upper hand, together with those that have the most economic weight if  and only if they speak out.  If I blog, it is mainly to inform airlines about the need for animal research and how it contributes to advances and medical progress, therefore humanity of which the flying public is part.

Talking about speaking out today I want you to meet FASEB. Here's how they define themselves:

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is composed of 24 scientific societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States.

About a year ago FASEB speaking for its worldwide membership made the following comments to the US institute of medicine  (IOM) about the use of Chimpanzees in research. Source

The validity of the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research is a scientific question based on genetic and physiological similarity.
The rationale for using the chimpanzee in any given experiment is based on a number of factors. We feel that chimpanzees should continue to be available for biomedical research in the following instances:
1. if the chimpanzee is an appropriate and valid model to study the pathogenesis of a particular disease or virus;
2. if the chimpanzee is an appropriate and valid model to evaluate antiviral and/or vaccine safety and efficacy;
3. for pre-clinical testing and development of monoclonal antibodies since chimpanzee cell receptors and cytokine profiles are virtually identical to those of the human immune system;
4. if the research benefits the wild chimpanzee and great ape population. As we’ve heard, recent research on laboratory chimpanzees has led to the development and application of vaccines for the wild ape population against the deadly Ebola virus. And finally,
5. in the event of an unforeseen public health crisis due to bioterrorism or natural causes. In this case, the public might need access to a research population of chimpanzees in order to study disease progression and develop and test prophylactic and therapeutic strategies against these threats.
These are compelling needs going forward, and the availability of chimpanzees will be critical.

 FASEB also urges US senators not to adopt a bill that has the potential to ban invasive research involving great apes, which in the end could harm the animals themselves as well as ourselves. I am not a scientist but hearing this position, which I am sure wasn't taken lightly or on the cuff, should carry a lot of weight with decision makers of this world.

Remember that non human primates represent a tiny fraction of animals used in research and those that are flown are usually macacques or marmosets etc, not great apes. Those great apes that are being flown are usually for conservation purposes or as part of exchanges between zoo's.

Here are the arguments if you want to read the entire text, the following is an excerpt thereof:
As the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States, representing 26 societies and over 100,000 scientists and engineers, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is writing to urge you to withdraw your support for the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (S. 810). This bill would ban all invasive research involving bonobos, gorillas, gibbons, orangutans, and chimpanzees based in part on the questionable premise that doing so would save money. The act would compromise human and animal health and increase the cost to the public.

Institute of Medicine Findings
In December 2010, NIH commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the necessity of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research. In their December 2011 report, the committee stated that they do not endorse a ban on the use of chimpanzees in research and established a set of principles and criteria by which all future research should be guided.

The committee concluded that chimpanzees:

1.) Have been an invaluable animal model in the discovery of the hepatitis B vaccine

2.) Are needed to complete development of monoclonal antibodies aimed at treating cancers and autoimmune diseases

3.) Are needed in the development of a prophylactic hepatitis C vaccine

4.) Are needed for some behavioral and genomic analysis studies

5.) May be necessary for treating new, emerging, or reemerging infectious diseases in the future

NIH has accepted these principles and has begun the process of implementing them.

Chimpanzees are Necessary for Advances in Human and Animal Health
Relevant to the IOM findings, almost 200 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C infection and are at risk for liver failure and liver cancer. A recent study estimates that more people in the U.S. are dying from hepatitis C infection than HIV infection. In fact, one in 33 people aged 45-64 may have the disease and not even know it.1 The prohibition of medical research involving chimpanzees will likely slow the development of a vaccine that can prevent the transmission of hepatitis C.

Research on chimpanzees also remains crucial for the development of important life-saving monoclonal antibodies. Chimpanzees are especially important because their biological receptors and immune proteins are virtually identical to those of humans. Monoclonal antibodies that are currently being used to treat B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and several inflammatory and arthritic conditions were tested in chimpanzees.

If adopted, this bill will not only prevent the research needed for treatments to human diseases, but it will also prevent research that can directly benefit chimpanzees—inevitably harming the ones the legislation seeks to protect. The Ebola virus is ravaging wild populations of chimpanzees and gorillas. In 2010, the first studies were conducted on laboratory chimpanzees to test the safety of a potential vaccine against Ebola, which could be used to protect wild chimpanzees and gorillas from this deadly disease.


Sign the Basel declaration or attend an AR conference?

I happen to exchange ideas with a colleague of mine about how any kind of animal use is now increasingly being decried by animal rights orgs. It doesn't matter what your aim is, to them using animals is just wrong, unethical and has no place in modern society.
I by far prefer quoting some words from the Basel declaration:

Primates – Research at a Crossroads

  1. Research involving non-human primates is an essential requirement for biomedical progress in the 21st century.
  2. Biomedical research cannot be separated into ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research: it is a continuum stretching from basic studies of normal functions to their breakdown in diseases and the development of therapies.
  3. Researchers working with non-human primates are committed to the principle of 3Rs (replacement, reduction, and refinement of animal experiments).
  4. Informing the public.

Research involving non-human primates is an essential component for biomedical progress in the 21st century.

Research with non-human primates has greatly advanced our understanding of biology. It has lead to the development of crucial medical treatments because of the biological similarity to humans. The spectrum of these advances includes basic physiology, immunology, infectious diseases, genetics, pharmacology, reproductive biology, and neuroscience (for example: polio vaccine, hepatitis and drug safety). We envisage a greater need for non-human primate research in the future, e.g., for personalized medicine and neurodegenerative diseases in an aging society. This continuing need is reflected in the 2010 EU directive on animal experimentation (2010/63/EU), which recognizes that research involving non-human primates cannot be replaced in the foreseeable future.

Biomedical research cannot be separated into ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research: it is a continuum stretching from basic studies of normal functions to their breakdown in diseases and the development of therapies.

In the past, the vast majority of significant progress in clinical knowledge and treatment developed from research on normal structure and function (often unexpectedly and after a long time). Such research is therefore indispensable for biomedical progress. Any categorical restriction of research with non-human primates is therefore shortsighted and not justified by scientific evidence.
Source: http://www.basel-declaration.org/basel-declaration/primates/

Should you however want to hear more about animal rights, the following link brings you to the  upcoming animal rights conference in Washington.

A look at the program shows how lobbying against animal use can be combined with other causes : Commonality of Oppression (commonalities in the oppression of animals, children, women, minorities)  or how to befriend businesses:
Engaging Business (befriending businesses, stockholder initiatives, social and economic pressure) - Meier, Rice, Vincent.

Matt Ball - Vegan Outreach
Gene Baur - Farm Sanctuary
Michael Budkie - Stop Animal Exploitation Now!Joseph Connelly - VegNews MagazineNick Cooney - author "Change of Heart"
Karen Davis - United Poultry Concerns
Debra Erenberg - Amnesty InternationalBruce Friedrich - Farm SanctuaryCaryn Ginsberg - author "Animal Impact"Michael Greger - NutritionFacts.org
Scotlund Haisley - Animal Rescue Corps s
Alex Hershaft - Farm Animal Rights Movement
Melanie Joy - author, "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs..."
Shirley McGreal - Int'l Primate Protection League
Erica Meier - Compassion Over Killing
Dawn Moncrieffe - A Well-Fed World
Victoria Moran - author "Main Street Vegan " Peter Muller - League of Humane Voters
Norman Phelps - author "The Longest Struggle"Will Potter - Green Is the New Red
Becky Robinson - Alley Cat Allies Nathan Runkle - Mercy For AnimalsPaul Shapiro - Humane Society of the US
Doll Stanley - In Defense of Animals
Michael Weber - Farm Animal Rights Movement
Peter Young - Voice of the Voiceless


No room for mistakes

Look at this web page. It sounds as if medical research still operates on the same grounds as in the 70'ies. The page mentions how many people have died as a result of taking prescription drugs to finally conclude that 1 out of 10 hospital beds is occupied as a result of iatrogenesis (medically induced disease). I really don't know what world these people live in but apparently theirs is a flawless one.
A world where no mistakes are made or if mistakes are made then the activity needs to be stopped.
A few doctor statements are interjected as a means of illustrating how wrong animal research is and how it never leads to results for humans. After all these years of investigating, trying to understand, analyzing, comparing and creating drugs or cures that are safe for humans, this entire effort ends up to a zero sum equation. The entire medical field and those regulating it are all dead wrong. And if you speak in favor of animal use in research you are part of the torturing business. You are on the wrong side of the fence.

This reminds me of a joke where a scientist after having progressively cut off a frog's legs concludes that the result of his actions rendered the animal deaf because it could no longer move...!

It is good to be held to a high standard but when people play the cards against you because their motivation is not to improve but to stop an activity on the basis of their own moral grounds, then there is not just a problem. They become the problem. As far as I know animal research is used as a means towards discovering a solution. There is never a guarantee that what is undertaken leads to the expected or wished for outcome. Does that mean it does not need to be undertaken? No, absolutely not for mistakes are part of the learning. There is no straight line towards drug discovery and low hanging fruit is long gone.

No system is perfect and  built in safeguards are needed. Have animals been sacrificed in this process? Yes and there always will, until such time as animals are no longer deemed necessary. Only science can answer when this will be and science depends on our activities, our capacity to understand, investigate and discover.   When and if we get there we will have cured every disease and have eradicated pain and suffering from this planet, perhaps shall we all be immortal by then.
Meanwhile I suggest we let researchers search for cures, airlines continue to transport laboratory destined animals and patients have faith in the drug discovery process.


Cures for all

If you have read my posts on a regular basis I may appear as insensible to animals or at least those used in research. Those that know me on a personal basis know that this isn't true. Far from me is the idea of wanting to sound apologetic though. I do have to admit that advancing animal research isn't only about benefits to humans it is about benefits to animals as well. An aspect I did not blog about yet. Animals just happen not to read my pages and in the greater scheme of ecosystems and biodiversity to me humans just take priority.

This being said medical advancement based on research has benefited animals and this will continue to be the case. Did you know that in 2007, US pet ownership accounted for  +72 million dogs, +81 million cats, +11 million birds and +7 million horses (source AVMA)?
I can point you to this article that talks to some issues facing pets.  Likewise the UK National Office on Animal Health has a good page about animal medicines. Agriculture and more specifically livestock has also greatly benefited from research. This in turn benefits us as well.

Actually we are a bunch of lucky people, at least for those of us living in well fed, well educated, well homed (you get the picture) countries. Some would just love to have the type of problems or dilemmas we have. Who hasn't lived the pressures of our children towards owning an animal? In comes the aquarium or perhaps the colourful budgie. It might even be a cat or a dog. Some more adventurous will acquire a reptile or a snake -not an endangered species that is. For our children, it could be the beginning towards a career in biology or in veterinary medicine, who knows? Hopefully though will this love for animals in time not turn into radicalism or animal extremism!

It reminds me of the Convention in International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which is about regulating trade not about stopping trade, a nuance often lost by those involved with endangered species. Or perhaps not so by those that seek to abolish any kind of animal use? So called flag ship species such as the big cats, whales, elephants, rhinos, apes and monkeys are powerful motivators and people don't hesitate to donate to their causes. It seems certain priorities do get lost in action. We do need to be reminded that non human primates continue to be valuable animal models for research. This very research can also be the basis towards improving animal life. Not just improving life of pets but also farm animals or those in zoo's & aquariums and those that will be re-introduced as a result of in-situ or ex-situ conservation programs.

Once discovered a cure, medication or medical device will serve many purposes and that is what matters most to those that suffer from a disease be they animals or humans. 


Free from harm

In previous blog entries I have written about (animal) person hood and the risk associated therewith. Most recently I stumbled upon the works of photograph Jo Anne McArthur or at least as it is described in
freefromharm.org  You can read the article here. I will however quote a part of the article for the purposes of the article in this blog:
the really important theme running through the We Animals project: Each individual animal that McArthur encounters and photographs on her journeys is a someone rather than a something. That may seem like a matter of semantics to some, but the difference is truly a paradigm shift in our relationship with other species. A something is to us an object. But a someone is a person, an individual. The beauty and genius behind McArthur’s work is how she portrays animals in our society that have been objectified to show that actually they are individuals whose individuality has simply been erased from our consciousness. Her images compel us to reconnect to who they truly are—individuals.
I happened to have worked in or with at least two domains where animal use and breeding prevail, namely agriculture and life science research for medical advancement. From as far as I can tell there is no one in either industry that takes pleasure in exposing animals to painful procedures. That doesn't take away the fact that it remains necessary.

Can you imagine creating a strong emotional bond with an animal  to the point where it becomes counterproductive to the very aims of the enterprise because you consider the animal as an individual? Can one actually afford to walk that path? Yes probably but then for a very short period of time and then concluding that what you are about to undertake is absolutely necessary. That the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Asking for person hood is the beginning of the end for both industries and probably much more.

Most of us go to the grocery store to purchase food such as meat, eggs, dairy products, bread, fruits and vegetables. Likewise for drugs at the drug store. We did not have to do a single thing, except for earning money, to take advantage of these benefits. Actually we take them for granted. I did not have to raise an animal, take care of its health, grow it up to an adult stage, provide it with food and shelter, slaughter it, remove its intestines, cut it into pieces etc. And the same stands for all of our other food habits, the medications we take and so many other things we enjoy on a daily basis. Most of us wouldn't even know nor have the most basics skills it takes to be able to do these things I just mentioned.

I actually happen to agree with the web site's title 'free from harm'. May we humans be free from the harm that these people call upon us with the greatest sense of conviction and rightfulness! I for one will blissfully ignore them, go to my supermarket to buy my steak and take my animal tested pills. May those involved in or with animal use industries be free from harm and harassment such as this and this.


Mickey and Minnie, Speedy Gonzalez, Jerry and the transgenic superhero

In the permanent quest for cures and treatments, rodents such as mice play an important role in research. These animals for most of us are considered as pests, whereas others see in them a pet. For research however apart from its homology with mankind, the value of the animal also lies in its small size, its easy breeding and fast reproductive capacity.  You may have heard some very specific terminology associated with these mice destined for research. Such as for example 'KnockOut'  mice. A good source of information of what constitutes a knockout mouse and its purpose is issued in this factsheet on the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute web site.

 For an overview on transgenic mice their use and purpose, click here.

So these animals are purpose bred in specific pathogen free environments by breeders whom sell them to research institutions. Receiving institutions on the other hand must make sure the animals are adequately handled and cared for. In the US this is done by means of a policy issued by the institution's animal care and use committee (IACUC) as is the case in this example of the University of Montana for the care and use of specific pathogen free mice. Whilst you are on this page you may well take a look at the many other aspects that are the subject of specific policies so as to fully understand that research using animals is not conducted haphazardly or without guidelines.

In addition to get a good understanding of what IACUC is and does I have reproduced below the text from their web site:

What is an IACUC?

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is a self-regulating entity that, according to U.S. federal law, must be established by institutions that use laboratory animals for research or instructional purposes to oversee and evaluate all aspects of the institution's animal care and use program.

Purpose of IACUC.ORG

IACUC.ORG is an information resource for members and staff of institutional animal care and use committees. It is a link archive where online resources are organized by menus and sub menus. Many who browse the Internet for IACUC resources may find it overwhelming to randomly sift through the enormity of Websites and their online materials. IACUC.ORG was developed as an organizational tool to quickly point to a topic of interest, such as protocol forms or disaster plans used by different institutions.

Who we are

AALAS is an organization committed to serving society through education and the advancement of responsible laboratory animal care and use. One of AALAS' goals is to be a resource for continuing education, training, and knowledge exchange.

 Similar entities and or control mechanisms may exist in your country.
 For an overview of the origins of mice in genetic research click here.
 If you want to have an idea of how many animals are used in research, the Nuffield Bioethics organization provides for a good overview here. This again underscores the importance of the use of rodents in research and their contribution to our lives.