Pro-Test: Standing Up For Science
Home > Blogs > Stand Up For Science  

Stand Up for Science

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Facts about Animal Research

Here are some of the facts I researched about animal research. (They are also posted up on the PRO-Test website.)

Benefits

Without animal research, medicine as we know it today wouldn’t exist. Animal research has enabled us to find treatments for cancer, antibiotics for infections, vaccines to prevent some of the most deadly and debilitating viruses and surgery for injuries, illnesses and deformities.

According to the US based, Foundation for Biomedical Research: “Animal research has played a vital role in virtually every major medical advance of the last century - for both human and veterinary health. From antibiotics to blood transfusions, from dialysis to organ transplantation, from vaccinations to chemotherapy, bypass surgery and joint replacement, practically every present-day protocol for the prevention, treatment, cure and control of disease, pain and suffering is based on knowledge attained through research with lab animals.”[1]

But animal research hasn’t benefited humans alone. Animals also have improved healthcare and a longer lifespan. Farm animals, household pets, wild species and endangered species are all benefiting from the research conducted through animals. There are vaccines for rabies, distemper, tetanus, parvo virus and numerous other illnesses in cats, dogs and countless other domesticated animals. Cats now have a treatment for Feline Leukemia. It’s obvious that animal research benefits all living species and that we are all able to live longer, healthier, happier lives because of it.

In fact, seven out of the ten most recent Nobel Prizes in medicine, were based on animal research. Here’s a link citing a list of 71 of the Nobel Prizes won in the last 103 years using animal models, including what animal they used.

Examples of the Benefits from Animal Research and the Animals Involved:

Smallpox (cow) has now been eradicated from earth, Polio has been eradicated from North America and people in countries all over the world are being successfully treated (mouse and monkey). Insulin is now able to help control diabetes (dog, fish). There are vaccines for tetanus (horse), rubella (monkey), anthrax (sheep), and rabies (dog, rabbit). A short list, far from comprehensive, of some of the achievements made possible by medical research and the animal used to develop it[2]:

An understanding of the Malaria lifecycle (pigeon), tuberculosis (cow, sheep), Typhus (guinea pig, rat, mouse), and the function of neurons (cat, dog).
The discovery of anticoagulants (cat), penicillin (mouse), open heart surgery and cardiac pacemakers (dog), lithium (rat, guinea pig), treatment for leprosy (armadillo), organ transplantations (dog, sheep, cow, pig), laproscopic surgical techniques (pig), and a drug for AIDS treatment (monkey)

Number of Animals Used
The number of procedures and experiments involving animals in 2004 for the United Kingdom was exactly 2,854,944. The number of animals used is slightly less than this because some experiments used a particular animal more than once.[3]

In the UK in 2004, the a wide variety of institutions used animal research. The percentages of each are as follows: universities (42.1 %); commercial organizations (33.3 %); non-profit organizations (4.9 %); government departments (2.4 %); National Health Service hospitals (0.9 %); public health laboratories (0.6 %); other public bodies (15.8 %).[4]

The Types of Animals Used
The animals used for research in the United Kingdom must be specially bred by registered license holders. Research is not performed on stray animals or unwanted pets. This is strictly illegal. The use of chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas is also banned. The majority of research is conducted on rodents, with a smaller percentage using fish, reptiles, and birds. A very small percentage is conducted in larger mammals. The exact percentages for animals used in the UK in 2004 were[5]:

84% Rats, mice and other rodents. All specially bred laboratory species
12% Fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds (including many fertilised hen's eggs)
1% Small mammals other than rodents, mostly rabbits and ferrets
2.6% Sheep, cows, pigs and other large mammals
0.3% Dogs and cats
. Specially bred for research. No strays or unwanted pets can be used
0.15% Monkeys, such as marmosets and macaques. Chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas have not been used in this country for over 20 years and their use is now banned.

Alternatives

One of the most common questions asked is why scientists don’t use alternatives to animals.

Living organisms are incredibly complex and scientists still only understand a very small fraction of the structures, chemicals, interactions and metabolic pathways in humans and animals. The only way for scientists to learn more about them is through organisms that possess these traits. That’s why animal research is so important for the future of medicine and the ability to treat and cure diseases.

What few people realize is that multiple tests involving cells, DNA, proteins, and in-vitro techniques are used in the initial stages of biomedical research. It’s only when a point is reached where no experimental model can be substituted for a living organism.

When working to learn new information in science, the process starts at the smallest level possible. This is often work done with DNA from cell lines or the proteins that cause disease. As scientists and researchers learn more about their topic, the level of complexity increases in the models they study. They may move on to bacterial cells, then mammalian (animal and human) cells, then into entire organs and eventually into animals. We don’t currently have the technology to make computer programs or other methods of replicating the intricate and highly sensitive models that an entire living animal provides us with.

So asking why alternatives aren’t used is a misleading question. The experiments used that aren’t performed in animals are complementary to the experiments performed in animals and help researchers understand the big picture of a disease or system.

If there are any methods that can be used before an animal to learn new information, British law dictates they must be used.

Types of Animal Research

Animal research falls under three broad categories[6]:
1. Pure research
2. Applied research
3. Toxicology research

Medical Research Council

The Medical Research Council was established in 1913 in order to study diseases and illnesses and look for ways of treating or curing them.

As they explain in their informational booklet, they study diseases through multiple models to best understand the mechanisms involved in the health aspects they research, using humans, cell cultures and animals.

Thanks to the recent genomic revolution, sequencing of the human genome and many animal genomes, they now have a much greater understanding of which particular species share similar or different aspects of the human body, allowing animal research to become much more specific and targeted. It has enabled scientists to make educated decisions on which animals will serve as excellent models of varying diseases.

The MRC states that approximately 30% of their research uses animals and the remainder of studies conducted are in other models, like those listed above.[7]

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If animal research prevents toxicity effects in humans from new drugs, what happened with thalidomide?

One of the major arguments against testing drugs on animals is the example of the drug thalidomide, known to chemists as (±)-N-(2,6-Dioxo-3-piperidyl)phthalimide, that caused birth defects. Thalidomide was introduced in 1956 and marketed as a sedative. Within several years, its use had spread around the world and women began taking it to help combat the nausea associated with pregnancy. In 1961, several physicians linked thalidomide with birth defects observed in their patients currently taking it. Almost immediately after, physicians worldwide began confirming these results. Soon after the discovery of the teratogenic effects became known, it was taken off the market.

Thalidomide did initially pass safety tests in animals because the proper tests were not performed, namely testing thalidomide in pregnant animals. If a through battery of tests had been performed in animals, the teratogenic effects would have been caught. Those opposing animal research though, cite Thalidomide as the perfect example to show why animals cannot be used to replace humans. They claim that Thalidomide did not cause birth defects in animals, only humans, which is completely inaccurate. Once the drug was pulled off the market, additional tests in animals were done, and it was found that mice, rats, hamsters, marmosets and baboons all suffered similar effects as observed in humans. (See original literature below)

Another note is that thalidomide was never approved in the USA because the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), felt there was too little data to prove its safety, and wanted additional tests.

Part of the reason less animal tests were performed is because of lax regulations and a more limited knowledge of medical science. What wasn’t realized at the time, was that if a pregnant women suffered no side effects, neither would the fetus. This was also believed to be the same with animals. Medical research has now shown this to be false, as most medications of any kind need to be avoided during pregnancy unless absolutely necessary.

Ultimately, the sales of thalidomide with insufficient pharmacokinetic data lead to the tragedy of an estimated 15,000 fetuses suffering birth defects. The ones who suffered from this situation were not the animals, but thousands of women who lost unborn children. Those children who did survive suffered from massive disfiguring deformities.

Thalidomide only serves to highlight the inadequacy of the testing process at the time, not the inadequacies of animal testing. This misfortune could have been prevented had we conducted through animal tests, including pregnancy studies. A few more animals and countless human lives would have been saved.

Fortunately, scientists and the medical community have learned from past mistakes. Laws and regulations have been revised and made much stricter. The tests conducted today before a drug is made available to the public finds teratogenic effects as well as numerous others. Time and time again, animal testing has proven its record as serving as an excellent indicator for how a drug will react in the human body.

Some of the original journal articleson the research of Thalidomide:

1.Blake DA, Gordon GB, Spielberg SP. The role of metabolic activation in thalidomide teratogenesis. Teratology 1982;25(2):28A-29A.).
2.DiPaolo JA (1963). Congenital malformation in strain A mice: its experimental production by thalidomide. JAMA vol.183: 139-141
3.Homburger F, Chaube S, Eppenberger M, Bogdonoff PD and Nixon CW (1965). Susceptibility of certain inbred strains of hamsters to teratogenic effects of thalidomide. Toxicol Appl Pharmaco vol.: 686-69
4.Hamilton WJ & Poswillo DE (1972). Limb reduction anomalies induced in the marmoset by thalidomide. J Anat vol.11:505-50
5.Hendrick AG, Axelrod LR & Clayborn LD (1966). Thalidomide syndrome in baboons Natur vol. 210: 958-95
6.King CTG &; Kendrick FJ (1962). Teratogenic effects of thalidomide in the Sprague Dawley rat. The Lancet: ii: 1116
7.Rajkumar, SV (2004). Thalidomide: Tragic Past and Promising Future Mayo Clin Proc. 79(7).



Animals are different from humans, so how can they accurately represent humans?

Animal models are not perfect representations of humans and scientists are well aware of this. BUT, they do serve as excellent substitutes (mostly using mice, rats and other small rodents) for humans.

As the genomic revolution has come around and the genomes of both humans and animals have been sequenced, we have realized that there are much more similarities between humans and animals than there are differences. It has also enabled us to identify where humans and particular animals are identical, as some animals serve as accurate representatives of a human’s anatomy, while others may share identical biochemical pathways. Genomic knowledge has made it so that animal research can be much more specifically targeted and accurate when representing a human, thus correctly predicting a how a human will react.

For example, mice are one of the most commonly used vertebrate species in animal research. This is because they small, easy to care for and for animal researchers to handle and work with and importantly, they reproduce much faster than many larger animals, as they can produce up to 100 babies in a year. This is an important trait when researchers are studying heritable diseases or compounds that could cause birth defects (see question number 1 on thalidomide). Mice are actually considered the best model of inherited human diseases. This is because they share 99% of all the genes with humans! Their genomes are also easy to manipulate to replicate the human form making them even more similar to humans[8].

What about cosmetic testing? Where does PRO-Test stand on cosmetic testing?

Cosmetic testing is banned in the United Kingdom. It is also banned in the Netherlands and Belgium, and the European Union has passed legislation that outlaws animal testing in the year 2009. By 2014, products still being tested on animals in other countries will also be banned in the EU[9].

Seeing as cosmetic testing is outlawed, PRO-Test does not need to take a stance on cosmetic testing. It is a non-issue. We also feel that it is currently irrelevant to our main goals as we are trying to promote research in animals to further medicine, health and science.

posted by Kristina Cook at 4:21 PM  

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Dawn of a New Age: Standing up, Proud and Tall, For Animal Research and The Oxford Lab

I will start by explaining how I became involved in a group PRO-Test, and how a nerdy science graduate student, quite content with her days spent in a lab, was thrust into the middle of a huge political battle in Oxford, and all of the UK .

It hasn't been easy, trying to get my lab work finished, while trying to promote why I think science is so important to humankind. But, losing a few hours in lab seems unimportant when I feel that if someone doesn't stand up for research, we will slowly lose the ability to perform it, as people like SPEAK take it away. And as we lose our rights to research we lose the ability to learn more about humans and the conditions that affect them. This issue has sparked a fire within me and reminds me why I wanted to do research in science and medicine. It has been my drive during those days where I haven't gotten much sleep and feel too tired to work, because I know that if I can educate people on the importance of this issue to EVERYONE, then I have made a small difference. And so I will continue to spread the word and show everyone why they should care about animal research.

I haven't been out in Oxford long (only about four and half months currently), but soon after arrival I got quite involved with a new group, named PRO-Test. The group was started in order to promote the benefits of animal research and it's importance in medicine. The fame of this group spread like wildfire after our first demonstration, held on the 25th of February, 2006. Members of our group were constantly being contacted for interviews and radio and TV shows. It was very unexpected, and I think we initially underestimated the support for a group like ours. I had always felt most people supported animal research, when conducted ethically and legally. But, I hadn't estimated that we would have THIS much support. I also hadn't expected media coverage for something like this, but being an American, I hadn't quite comprehended the magnitude of this issue in the UK.

It all began when I read somewhere about a group forming to show support for the new Oxford lab, unlike the protestors who were against the construction of the new lab. SPEAK is the name of the major group involved in protesting and organizing the demonstrations on South Parks Road, where the new lab is built. SPEAK, which I will admit I am biased of, because I obviously support the new lab and professional and ethical animal research. I support free speech, but SPEAK had gone far above and beyond any right to voicing their opinions and expressing them. I had witnessed people being shouted at by some of the SPEAK members, as well as the harassment they dealt out to the construction workers and passing scientists, researchers and scientists. So I didn't have much respect for them. Many of them seemed to be more concerned about how loud and disruptive they could be, than any actual animals. Most people would tend to forget the reason they were always out there, instead just complaining about how noisy they were. It seemed like SPEAK was always shooting themselves in the foot with their disruptive, annoying tactics, as well as the harmful and destructive ones which they have been associated with, like burning down one of Oxford's boathouses last summer. It may or may not have been SPEAK members who burnt the building but animal rights activists have claimed responsibility to it.

I disliked how negative the debate had become as well as the tactics employed by 'animal rights' activists and wanted to show the other side of the argument, those who were in FAVOUR of the lab. But I was warned again and again, I would be risking my life by standing up to them. But when I heard of this new group and a potential demonstration for the lab on February 25th, I emailed the group asking to get involved. I then sent out the following email to everyone I knew to publicize the issue and try to gain as much support as possible, as well as to several listservs:

As most of you probably know, I strongly support building the
new research facility in Oxford, as well as animal testing for
medical research. However, as many “animal rights” groups
would like for you to believe, I don’t support torture of animals
in any way, shape, or form, nor do I wish for any animals to
experience unnecessary pain or suffering. I have worked in
four different laboratories. Two conducted research using small
animal models directly and the other two collaborated with labs
that used animal models.

Needless to say, I have been exposed to animal research
in several different settings and have first hand experience
about what animal research is REALLY like.

In my six years of research experience, I have never once
worked with or even encountered a scientist that hasn’t
wholeheartedly pursued the ethical treatment of these
animals. Scientists treat all animal subjects humanely,
ensuring that these animals don’t suffer pain, and that as
few animals as possible are used. Just as they value
human life, scientists also value animal life and the
incredible service these animals are doing for humanity.

The animals are treated with respect and are given excellent
care.

Unfortunately, many of these radicals would like the public to
believe that there are alternatives to the use of animals, and
that there is absolutely no need for animal research
whatsoever.

They would like everyone to believe that researchers choose
animal testing to abuse animals or because we are too lazy or
cheap to use other alternatives. It’s true that there are
alternatives in the EARLY stages of biomedical research,
which is why the majority of research devoted to finding new
treatments is done through chemical, biochemical, biological
and pharmacological assays involving DNA, RNA, proteins,
and mammalian cells. But, in the end, drugs must be tested
in an animal model in order to see the effects of a compound
in the entire body, not just in a cellular environment. Testing
drugs in animals before doing so in humans helps researchers
find potential toxic side effects, as well as understand the
metabolism of drug compounds and consequent effects seen
throughout the body.

This CANNOT be replicated in cellular assays. I am personally
willing to take a stand and say that I would prefer to test these
drugs on animal models before I test them in my mother, father,
sister, best friend or ANY other human, who may be suffering
from an illness. I have been extremely disgusted with the animal
rights terrorist organizations that are personally attacking
scientists who perform any form of medical research on animals
here in Oxford.

Now, the scientists aren’t the only targets for harassment. The
fanatics have declared that everyone in Oxford, as well as all
property here, will be specifically targeted. (The link to the
article posted on one of their websites: http://www.animalliberationfront.us/ALFront/Actions-UK/OxfordWar.htm)

A statement circulated to all activists this month said: "The
ALF
is calling out to the movement to unite and fight
against the
university on a maximum impact scale.
We must target
professors, teachers, heads,
students, investors, partners,
supporters and
anyone that dares to deal in any part of the
university
." These extremists stand outside of the
construction site, right next to the building in which I work,
the Chemistry Research Laboratory, shouting that animals
will be tortured inside this new building and that the
scientists conducting this research have malicious, cruel
agendas for these animals.

They use megaphones, whistles, screaming, banners,
harassment and other scare tactics to try to terrorize anyone
who walks by into believing their uninformed and
uneducated stance on animal testing. They disrupt the work
and studies of all the students, professors, employees and
researchers in the nearby area, even though the majority of the
people in the surrounding area conduct research that has
nothing to do with animals.

They have been holding massive demonstrations that have
prevented me from being able to go into my lab on particular
days because the University believes that our safety is in danger
during these rallies. It is a sad sight to see the construction
workers building this new facility, wearing masks to conceal
their identity, because their safety, as well as that of their
families, is endangered simply because they are working on
the construction of this building. Some of the recent crimes
committed by these militant groups in the UK include:

  • Intimidating the last construction company working on the
    site in Oxford until they withdrew from the project in summer 2004
  • Setting fire to the Hertford College Boat House that caused ₤500,000 in
    damage
  • Vandalizing property at an Oxford firm of architects
    who work for the University
  • Stealing the buried body of Gladys Hammond, because
    she was a memberof a family that bred Guinea pigs Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/staffordshire/4176446.stm
  • Torching the Corpus Christi pavilion
  • Sending threatening letters to people involved in any aspect
    of construction or research

One of several animal extremist groups claimed responsibility for
each of these events. I was offended from the moment I began
my work at Oxford by these protestors, but, when I wanted to
speakout against them, I was consistently told that I would be
risking vandalism, stalking, and potentially even my life by
standing up to these “animal rights activists”.

However, these crimes and the harassment will continue unless
we do something about it. I refuse to stand by and do nothing.
If everyone continues to fear these extremists and allow them
to terrorize the citizens of Oxford, then the protestors are
succeeding.

It’s time for those of us who believe in the scientists
and doctors
who have dedicated their lives to saving
the lives of others, to stand
up against these people.

I will be in the front row of the peaceful demo scheduled on
Saturday February 25th (see information below), which will
coincide with another one of the animal activist group’s
(SPEAK) protest rally. It is in collaboration with the local
police and will be completely legal. I hope I will see some of
you there, too. We could make a colossal statement if we
had more supporters for the new building than protestors.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope
everyone will continue to educate themselves so that they
can learn more about this issue and make an informed
decision on animal testing and the organizations that
harass the very people who are working to find cures for
diseases that many of us may be afflicted with someday.


Kristina Cook PRS D.Phil. Student; Dept. of Chemistry
National Institutes of Health/ Oxford University
Biomedical
Research Scholar

For more information: Website supporting the new Oxford
building:
http://www.pro-test.org.uk/
To join the email list, send an email to: mailing@pro-test.org.uk
An article from Animal Liberation Front (ALF) threatening EVERYONE and their safety at Oxford:
http://www.animalliberationfront.us/ALFront/Actions-UK/OxfordWar.htm
An article by the BBC on animal testing and Oxford:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/animalexperiments/protests.shtml

And there is how the whole story began, and my life in Oxford wasn’t going to be the same ever again……..

posted by Kristina Cook at 5:33 PM  

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Standing Up for Science

I’ve finally decided to start a blog, in order to get my views out there, and allow people to see how I REALLY feel about animal research, why I think it’s important, and why it needs to continue currently. Hopefully, for those of you out there reading this, you can realize why animal research should be important to you, and make an informed decision as to how you regard it. I am coming from a biased view, in that, I strongly support animal research. This isn’t to say that I think any form of animal abuse is acceptable, or that I think there shouldn’t be laws. I believe that animal research should be regulated, scientists and researchers don’t have anything to hide, so submitting their work up for scrutiny under the law is a good thing. And as for the charming videos many of the animal rights activists like to choose to show on their websites, I have a hard time believing most of them are real. Or that they aren’t highly edited to show a monkey yelling when it likely had nothing to do with the research. Lets not forget that animals can be quite noisy, and it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily in pain (although it also obviously can indicate pain too.)

That said, there are probably a few rare cases of animal abuse in labs. And I hope that those people are caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That is not acceptable and isn’t something I support, as much as some animal rights activists would like you to believe.

The most unfortunate part of all this animal rights and animal welfare, pro-vivisection and pro-test activism, is the fact that the argument can sometimes seem black and white. But the issue will never be 100% clear, there are always the blurry lines. Even for myself a staunch supporter of animal research in science.

posted by Kristina Cook at 1:48 PM  

About the author

Kristina Cook Name: Kristina Cook

Location: Oxford, United Kingdom


My name is Kristina Cook and I am a first year DPhil (PhD) student in a mix of Chemistry/Biochemistry and Pharmacology at Oxford University. I am 23 years old. I just moved to Oxford from Washington DC, where I lived for two months as part of the graduate program I am in. Before this I had lived in San Diego, California for five years where I went to San Diego State University for my undergraduate education. In those five years I had the opportunity to further my science education by working for a wonderful small biotech/pharmaceutical company for three years, in the in-vitro pharmacology department. I also worked in an academic lab in synthetic chemistry, for two years. I am now out in Oxford, researching cancer angiogenesis, specifically some of the proteins involved, and looking for potential new ways of treating cancer.

This Blog

This page has been set up to promote scientific research and show support for animal research conducted ethically and intelligently. Recent news in science, discussions on science and animal research and guest writings by fellow scientists are just a few of the things you can expect to find here. Build the Oxford Lab!

Links

Article I published on Animal Testing
Click to Give a Free Mammogram to a Woman in Need
Research Defense Society Blog
One of the Many Articles on Our February Demonstration
Coalition for Medical Progress

Previous

Exciting “new” breast-cancer drug progresses to human trials
Questioning the Motivation of Some 'Animal Rights' Groups
Macaque Studies Find Potential AIDS Preventative Treatment
Recent Breakthrough in Medicine Thanks to Animal Research!
Why Animal Research is Important AND Needed: A Copy of the Speech I Gave on the February 25th Demonstration
Facts about Animal Research
The Dawn of a New Age: Standing up, Proud and Tall, For Animal Research and The Oxford Lab
Standing Up for Science

Archives

March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
Current Posts

powered by Blogger

Home | About | Facts | Blogs | Action | Get Involved | Contact | Links Pro-Test 2006 (some rights reserved)