Tag Archives: animal research

Bone marrow on a chip could revolutionize treatments!

iStock_000015264919SmallBone marrow is a complex tissue that, until now, could only be studied in living animals. Recently, Harvard researchers created “bone marrow on a chip” by reproducing the structure and function of bone marrow. Past efforts involving combining cells on an artificial surface have failed, because bone marrow is extremely complex. So researchers turned to animals for help. By creating a framework of bone powder and implanting it under the skin of an animal, the animal’s body did the work for them and created an impressive bone and marrow structure!

The engineered bone marrow could help researchers assess potential side effects of cancer treatments, observe the effects of drugs to prevent radiation poisoning, and even generate blood cells. It may even be possible to grow human bone marrow in immune-deficient mice!

Researchers work with animals because they often give more accurate information than cell cultures and computer simulations alone. From vaccine development to cancer treatments to joint replacement surgery, animals have been- and continue to be- extremely important in the effort to save lives. And now, animals are helping researchers create better alternatives, which could ultimately reduce the number of animals needed in research without compromising research outcomes. Good news for everyone!

Read more here:


University of Wisconsin, cats and protesters- who’s right?

ProtesterIf you haven’t already heard of this controversy, let me give you a very brief overview. Since 2009, PETA has been targeting a research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for controversial research involving cats. Recently, PETA purchased ads on the sides of Madison buses, showing pictures of a lab cat named Double Trouble and asking for the end of cat experiments at UW-Madison. It caused quite a commotion, because Double Trouble has a surgical alteration that looks pretty strange. And PETA’s reports include references to the implantation of ”small, twisted wire coils on the top of the cats’ heads or around one or both eyeballs.” See where the controversy is coming from?

OK. Remember that- we’ll come back to it. Now let me give you some details about a couple of procedures. Read these descriptions, and think about them for a minute.

Procedure #1: A device is surgically implanted into the shoulder area. Wires are then forced into veins in the chest, and electrical impulses are sent through these wires.

Procedure #2: An incision is made over the spine. A portion of one or more vertebrae are chipped or drilled away. Wires are then pushed into the spine, and they lay against the spinal cord, emitting electrical pulses.

Procedure #3: Medication is given to completely paralyze the body. Artificial life support is required. Then, the body temperature is artificially lowered dramatically, causing unnaturally cold temperatures in the body- and shivering to raise body temperature is impossible due to paralysis.

All of these procedures sound pretty bad, right? When you read these, they probably make you shudder a little bit- right? So what are these horrible procedures?? Well, procedure #1 is surgery to implant a pacemaker into a 14-year-old child with a heart problem. Procedure #2 is surgery to implant a spinal cord stimulator into a 25-year-old patient who deals with chronic pain from permanent nerve damage that was caused when a drunk driver hit him as he was crossing at a crosswalk. And procedure #3 is treatment for a 60-year old grandfather of 8 who suffered from a heart attack. All three of these procedures will either save and/or improve the quality of these patients’ lives.

They don’t sound so bad now, do they? I’ll bet you went back and re-read those descriptions, and they make a little more sense. Why didn’t I just explain them normally, then? To make a point! Remember PETA’s description: “small, twisted wire coils on the top of the cats’ heads or around one or both eyeballs.” That definitely doesn’t paint a pretty picture. Animal rights groups know what buttons to push. They say “metal coil in the eyeball” and they know it will make people cringe. But plenty of people live with metal coils, rods, screws, plates, and pins implanted in their bodies, and those people can tell you that these nasty-sounding metal pieces don’t cause them any pain.

Double Trouble has a head cap that is necessary for the study that researcher Tom Lin is working on. They’re trying to determine how the brain detects sound, and Double Trouble and 17 other cats are giving researchers insight into what makes us able to detect differences in the frequency and volume of sounds. Research like this is important in the understanding and development of devices and procedures that can improve or restore hearing- including cochlear implants.

Researchers don’t work with animals for their studies because they want to cause pain and discomfort just for the fun of it, to see what will happen. If there was a better way to develop new procedures that didn’t involve animals, that’s what they’d do. Why would researchers purposely perform animal studies if there was a way to do it better and get published faster? They wouldn’t.

Researchers also aren’t out to hurt animals. They don’t want to see animals suffer, and if these cats were suffering, there’s no way that they would yield useful data. If you read descriptions of the study, positive reinforcement training is used to elicit the necessary behaviors from the cats. Treating these animals humanely is the only way to actually have them respond appropriately and give useful data, so in addition to not wanting to make a living being suffer, researchers are extra careful to make sure that their animals are happy and healthy so that they are confident in the validity of their study outcomes. Read the USDA and veterinary descriptions- healthy cats, good body condition and ideal body weight, no signs of distress, and proper surgical protocols were followed in all cases.

Let me ask you a question. Re-read those three procedures again, and tell me if you would be willing to sign your 14-year-old daughter, 25-year-old brother, or 60-year-old grandfather up for any of those life-saving procedures if you didn’t know that they were developed and tested to the point that the doctors felt comfortable recommending and performing the procedures on humans. We don’t want to think that we’ll ever need any of these interventions- but the truth is that we very well might. And another truth- all of those procedures, and countless more, would not be options for patients at all if it wasn’t for basic research involving animals.

The next time you hear about animal research in a negative light, take a step back. Look at how the information is presented to you, and remember that people with an agenda will try to twist words around to make it sound as bad as possible. Pay close attention to facts, including results of USDA inspections, descriptions from licensed veterinarians, and behavioral information about the animals. There are regulations for a reason- it’s because researchers value animal life and they want to avoid suffering, but at this point in time we need to validate life-saving treatments in animals before we can try them in humans. So if animals need to be used, you’d better believe that everyone involved is making sure that these animals are as happy and healthy as possible. You may not understand animal research; even if you do, you may not want to be the one to DO animal research; but please respect the people who have committed their lives to making YOURS better through the use of responsible animal research. And I, for one, am thankful for the dedicated, professional researchers like Tom Yin and the animals like Double Trouble that work every day to save and improve our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

What do you think?

Read more about the research and the controversy here:


Research and patients: Understanding helps everyone!

Double portraitIt’s a great question: How much do patients actually know about animals in research, specifically, as they relate to advances in their own diseases or ailments?

Genetic Alliance UK and Understanding Research teamed up to find out. They held sessions at local universities and invited members of families affected by different genetic conditions. Patients and family members were able to go behind the scenes to see the animals, the caretakers, and the researchers at work.

Visitors were pleasantly surprised by the high standards of care, the bond between the staff and the animals, the strict rules and regulations, and the honesty and candor of the research staff they encountered! Now, attendees are learning how to discuss what they learned with the public, in an attempt to explain a patient’s perspective of animals in research.

This is such a great way to get people connected with research! We often hear from people either in the field of research or far removed from it, but giving patients a better understanding of where their treatments originate could allow us to hear from a whole new type of voice.

Do you know what research led to the development of treatments that have helped you or your family members? I urge you to look into it- a better understanding of the process can only help us all!



Mythbusters: Doubting animals as effective models of human disease

Medion   DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a common argument, and one that we’ve probably all heard. “90% of drugs deemed successful in animal studies fail in human clinical trials.” Activists say this to discredit animal-based research and argue that animals are not acceptable models for human disease.

Well… let’s look at the numbers. While it’s true that up to 90% of potential drugs are unsuccessful, that percentage includes drugs that are found to be unsafe using many different methods, including human trials- and many of these are abandoned for reasons unrelated to safety, including cost of development, demand, and litigation. Without animal research, the failure rate would be much higher.

Here’s a fun fact- 86% of drugs that pass Phase I human trials later fail in human tests. But that doesn’t mean that humans are unacceptable models for human disease- it simply means that we’re all different. A drug that is successful in treating one person’s disease could be completely ineffective on their sibling. And this is an excellent argument FOR animal-based research! If researchers only tested new drugs on humans, the variations between individuals would be extremely confounding to study results. But by working with genetically similar animals that are well-understood, disease processes and drug interactions are able to be more accurately documented. Look at the research for yourself- what do YOU think?



Why computer models can’t replace animals in research

Computer ratIn the field of biomedical research, animal research is an extremely important component in the development of new drugs, vaccines, treatments, and medical procedures. The information learned from animals is responsible for saving and improving the lives of countless people every day.

Some argue that today’s computer models of living systems are complex enough that they should be able to replace the use of animals in research. However, it’s important to understand that computer simulations are based on our existing knowledge of the living body and diseases. This current knowledge- which was gained through animal research- is constantly changing and improving. As animal models are able to provide more insight into disease processes and unlocking genomic information, the latest version of the computer model would quickly become obsolete.

Because of this, computer models by themselves cannot be successful without the information that animal research can contribute. But using computer models along with animal research can certainly help progress medical science. For a better understanding of the importance of animal model research, check out the links below.