Research Report June 98

Research Report June 98

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 06/30/1998 Category: | Research Reports |

Claiming that rats, mice and birds used in research are "essentially not considered animals by the US government," the American Anti-Vivisection Society has petitioned the US Department of Agriculture to add these species to the US Animal Welfare Act.

However, all species of animals used in research - whether covered by the AWA or not - must be cared for according to federal guidelines published in the National Research Council's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals in order to receive federal money or earn accreditation from the laboratory animal medicine's international professional association.

According to the National Association for Biomedical Research, similar petitions by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the US failed in the past because the plaintiffs failed to prove injury. This time, the petition claims financial injury to developers of methods alternative to the use of animals.

"It is somewhat ironic that calls for expanding the species covered by AWA regulations are occurring at the same time others are asking for data on how many people are involved in human clinical research trials," NABR said in a recent newsletter. "USA Today made the connection on June 8 with the headline 'Human test subjects not tracked, but USDA knows how many animals suffer for research.' The related story is about a recent report from the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, which recommends that human research subject information be gathered."

Mice save the day

Americans for Medical Progress

They dig through your garden and gnaw their way through your walls and floors. If you catch them in the midst of a midnight snack, they will scare you half to death as they scamper across the kitchen floor while you clamber to safety on top of the closest chair. You phone the exterminator to get rid of them, set traps to catch them, even try to kill them. You call them pests, vermin - and some other names not befitting a family newspaper. And guess what? These little creatures one day may save your life.

Thanks to the wonders of genetic engineering, mice are becoming increasingly important in the quest to find cures and treatments for diseases. So important, in fact, that the Harvard Health Letter designated the 1990s as the "Decade of the Mouse." The creature you swatted yesterday with a broom has its own decade. And for good reason.

Without mice, researchers would not have been able to unlock the role genes play in cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, juvenile diabetes, and a number of other illnesses. Scientists who want to understand human genes can isolate a gene in a mouse, manipulate it, and monitor its impact over many generations. Such work with mice leads to the development of gene therapies. Mice are vital in the development of medicines, serving as a link between a concept on a drawing board and a drug on your pharmacist's shelves. A computer or cell dish cannot possibly determine what effect a certain chemical will have on a whole living system, but mice can provide detailed information about the safety and effectiveness of new medicines.

British scientists have devised a method of replacing damaged brain cells by using embryonic cells from mice. This research offers hope to millions of sufferers of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found a protein that is needed to admit the AIDS virus into immune system cells. The next step is development of genetically-engineered mice that are susceptible to HIV infection to test new, more effective drugs and vaccines for people infected with HIV.

Israeli scientists working with mice have found a new type of enzyme that is linked to the ability of cancer cells to replicate and spread to other organs in the body. This discovery could lead to new gene therapies and methods of diagnosis that could help cancer patients.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota isolated individual cells in the spinal cords of mice that over-react to heat and touch. By knocking out these cells, they may be able to suppress exaggerated pain sensations while leaving intact the body's ability to sense normal stimuli. This research could provide relief to people who suffer with chronic pain.

Without doubt, mice are the unsung heroes of research. They seldom get the recognition they deserve for the role they play in medicine. Some animals achieve instant fame in the annals of scientific research. Who hasn't heard of Dolly, the cloned sheep? Others, like the lab mouse, toil on without glory., yet without earlier contributions by mice, Dolly would still only be a gleam in a scientist's eye

Animal research protects kids from poisons

Much of the lifesaving information poison control centers disseminate to the American public would not be available today without the continued use of animal testing, according to Dr. Paul Ford, Executive Director of Join Hands, a non-profit health and education alliance.

"We know all chemical substances are potentially dangerous and due to safety testing, we know the medical steps to take to save a child who has consumed a toxic substance or has been exposed to hazardous materials," said Dr. Ford.

Ford's remarks came during National Poison Prevention Week in March to remind Americans that 60 percent of poisoning accidents involve children and that animal research and testing is invaluable to their well being.

Poison control centers in the United States receive millions of calls each year from panicked parents whose children have been exposed to a hazardous substance, Ford said. The 1996 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveillance System found that more than one million children aged five and under were exposed to potentially poisonous substance that year alone.

The report also concluded that human exposures to poison increased by nearly 1000 percent between 1983 and 1996.

When accidents happen or products are misused, safety-testing data helps poison control centers and emergency room physicians to understand which exposures are actually harmful and how to treat patients in time to prevent serious consequences.

While Ford emphasized the continued need for animal testing to make products safe and to find cures for life threatening diseases, he said that Join Hands, a coalition of consumer groups, labor unions, public advocacy groups, individuals and research companies, supports the continuing efforts of the scientists to reduce the number of animals used in testing, to refine tests to eliminate discomfort, and to replace animal tests where possible.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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