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07/03/08

Permalink 10:19:17 am, by Robin Email , 419 words, 2067 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

Animal Testing Outdated?.....You have got to be Joking!

One of the most frequent claims made by anti-vivisectionists is that
animal research is outdated science, and can be replaced by in vitro and computational methods. We know that such claims are at best very
premature, and an article by Jonah Lehrer in this weeks edition of Seed magazine shows just how vital animal research is to the most advanced research
http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2008/03/out_of_the_blue.php?utm_source=SB-bottom&utm_medium=linklist&utm_content=magazine&utm_campaign=internal%2Blinkshare.

The Blue Brain project http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/ is one of the most
ambitious in bioscience world today. It seeks to reverse engineer the
mammalian brain in order to create a biologically accurate, functional
computer model of the brain. Such a model will help us to make sense of the deluge of data being produced in laboratory experiments and clinical research and prove invaluable to improving understanding of neurological diseases and mental health problems.

So where does animal research fit in?

The human brain is an enormously complex organ, and anyone wishing to
simulate it has to deal with many millions of variables, so the blue Brain team started by attempting to simulate a small subunit of the cerebral
cortex known as the neocortical column (NCC), of which there are millions in every brain. They chose to simulate the rat NCC for several reasons.
The rat NCC is structurally and functionally very similar to that in
humans, but contains about one-tenth as many nerve cells, making it a
little easier to simulate. Decades of research on the brains of live rats and rat nerve cells in vitro have yielded an enormous amount of data that was used to make the simulation. Finally it was possible to continually test the output of the computer simulation the live rat brain, which allowed the accuracy of the predictions made by the model to be evaluated and the appropriate corrections made.

The simulation of the rat NCC was completed late last year and will now serve as a template for simulations of the NCC of other species, and as a starting point for simulations of the whole brain.

While the Blue brain project depends on animal research for its success, and will require further animal research as it progresses, it may ultimately reduce the need for animal research in neuroscience by allowing scientists to evaluate their ideas and optimize their tests before they start an animal experiment.

Now what was that about outdated science?

Paul Browne

Stand Up For Science

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