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Technologies decrease rate of animal testing; locals still upset with GRU

Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 3:58 PM
Last updated Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 1:10 AM
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At least one dental implant experiment conducted on dogs at Georgia Regents University this year is over and the six hound mixes have been euthanized, but the furor in the community has not gone away.

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Jessica Swearingen keeps her 14-week-old Boxer, Hancock, warm while holding a vigil to protest GRU. More than 20 people and 6 dogs attended the vigil at the corner of 15th Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard with another protest scheduled for Dec. 7.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Jessica Swearingen keeps her 14-week-old Boxer, Hancock, warm while holding a vigil to protest GRU. More than 20 people and 6 dogs attended the vigil at the corner of 15th Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard with another protest scheduled for Dec. 7.

Biology freshman Hannah Kellems was so appalled when she read the media reports of the experiments this month, she began paperwork to transfer to another college.

One protest has already taken place and another is scheduled for Dec. 7. A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night outside the university, and organizers said the flickering flames were for the countless animals who had their bodies cut up and injected with disease in the name of science.

The development of alternatives such as skin grafts and cell cultures have decreased the use of animals by almost 50 percent over the past few decades by some estimates, but tens of millions of animals are still used in experiments and research nationwide.

“The standards are much better than they used to be and the willingness to carry out these studies are decreasing,” said Thomas Hartung, the director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, or CAAT. “Science has come a long way, and the more you know the less you need animals.”

Exact counts of the number of animals used in research today vary widely, but most organizations agree that mice, rats and birds make up almost 95 percent of the animals in U.S. laboratories. About 1 percent are dogs, cats and nonhuman primates, while the other roughly 4 percent are rabbits and nonvertebrates such as zebra fish.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting laboratories and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, but does not oversee the use of rats, mice and birds.

According to a 2012 USDA annual report, the most recent available, GRU had 59 nonhuman primates, 40 pigs, 22 dogs, 16 rabbits and six cats in its facilities.

While some animal research is required by law for toxicology tests, opponents say animals are still suffering for unnecessary cosmetics research and testing of products that already have been developed and approved. The European Union this year banned the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals.

On Nov. 20, the Humane Society of the United States released footage from an undercover investigator that showed hound dogs being used for dental implant experiments at GRU. The HSUS investigation found the university bought these dogs from a class B dealer, one who picks up strays or gets animals from pounds, shelters or “free to a good home” ads, then sells them for research.

This dealer, Kenneth Schroeder, has been cited several times by the USDA since 2011 and is under federal investigation over accusations that he violated the Animal Welfare Act. Officials from HSUS were also unclear whether GRU’s dental implant experiment was properly approved by the university’s internal committee, as is required by law.

Joanne Zurlo, CAAT Director of Science Strategy, said there are approximately 72,000 dogs used in research today. Dogs are used because they share hundreds of hereditary diseases with humans, their genetic makeup is similar and many therapies in dogs are translatable to humans, according to a 2011 workshop report by Zurlo on the subject. They are used primarily in drug development and pesticide testing, and the Environmental Protection Agency still requires pesticides be tested in one rodent and one non-rodent species.

However, Zurlo said the public’s emotional connection to dogs and new technologies that can replace them have played roles in reducing the frequency of dogs in labs.

“We’re really in an era right now where science is moving ahead quickly,” she said. “We are moving away from the use of animals in a lot of ways.”

In the past several decades, about 50 alternatives have been developed to replace or reduce the number of animals being used.

Regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe allow the use of skin grafts, sometimes left over from cosmetic or other surgery, to test whether chemicals will cause burns or irritation. 3-D computer models of human cells are also being used to test drugs and chemicals.

Scientists are also developing organs in 3-D to replace toxicology testing on rats and dogs.

In some cases the goal is to reduce the number of animals used. For example, a test to determine how much of a chemical is lethal, known as the LD50 test, once used 150 animals per substance but that has been reduced to 12.

Jacquie Calnan, the president of Americans for Medical Progress, said despite science’s advances, animals are still very much needed in research. Before putting a drug on the market, scientists have to show how it responds in a living system. And sometimes finding better treatments for disease or more effective drugs can’t be done in a 3-D model.

Over the past century, countless medical breakthroughs have been made through animal experimentation. Immunizations against polio, hepatitis and measles are just a few. The development of organ transplantation, chemotherapy and coronary bypass surgery were also made with animals.

Researchers are also testing on animals to develop treatment for AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

But public support for animal testing is declining. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who support animal testing has dropped 18 points since 2001, to 47 percent.

Apart from the moral opposition, many animal welfare groups argue animal testing is not relevant to human health.

According to Hartung, if aspirin were invented today it would fail toxicology tests because it kills half the rats given doses used by humans. Drugs also show different effects between species, such as rats and mice, and differences in metabolic systems make some experiments irrelevant to humans, he said.

HSUS Chief Scientific Officer Andrew Rowan said the goal should be to reduce the harm and suffering to animals and unnecessary testing.

“I don’t think we’ll ever not use animals in research, but I think what will happen is we won’t cause any harm and suffering,” he said. “You can use research on people’s pets through clinical studies, we can use humans now. You can do studies on animals that don’t involve suffering. What we’re arguing for is we should end the use of animals in research causing them harm.”

PUBLIC RECORDS

The Augusta Chronicle submitted a Georgia Open Records Request on Nov. 22 to Georgia Regents University for protocols pertaining to animal research and the corresponding approval documents for those experiments. The Chronicle also requested medical records, information about the animals housed at the university and dates of acquisition.

The university responded Wednesday and indicated it would take hundreds of pages of documents – costing thousands of dollars – to fulfill this request. The Chronicle agreed to narrow the request and on Nov. 27 asked the legal staff for two documents – the protocol and approval for one experiment.

The university responded with a heavily redacted protocol and did not provide the approval document.

Comments (19) Add comment
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Brad Owens
4727
Points
Brad Owens 11/30/13 - 11:18 pm
6
1
This must end...

It is unethical and immoral to harm animals without necessity.

albertoli
189
Points
albertoli 12/01/13 - 02:10 am
4
3
The students' emotional scars

There is a lot of rationalization in the article for the use of animals that leads to their euthanization, but there is no mention of the emotional and psychological impact that it has on the students who are made to practice on the animals. Even in a clinical setting, a student is still human being, and most have had pets at some point in their lives. Knowing that what they are doing is causing pain and eventually leads to the animal's death has to be disturbing to them on some level. In a clinical setting where they are told to do something by a superior, most will comply, even if they find it uncomfortable. They will carry the memories of what they did for life. The evolution of a civilized society progresses on many levels, how we treat other humans and how we treat the animals under our dominion. The article states that the animals used are closely related to humans in how they react to the experiments. It fails to mention that they also experience the pain from the experiments, and the desire to live that all animals cling to. This needs to end. It is rather telling that the source for their animals is a seedy character with a bad reputation and a history of being investigated by the authorities. This is rather reminiscent of when they found bones in the basement in the original MCG building. The bones were of deceased black pigmented people who were dug up by grave robbers, grave robbers who worked for the doctors at MCG in the 1800's. Isn't it past time for some emotional sensitivity and respect for life, and death, on the part of science?

Riverman1
87013
Points
Riverman1 12/01/13 - 08:48 am
5
2
Blessing of the Hounds

No blessing of the hounds at GRU.

seenitB4
90954
Points
seenitB4 12/01/13 - 09:16 am
5
2
Cadavers

Many donate their bodies to MCG..use them & stop using dogs...if you have ever seen a dog mourn or any animal, you would realize their emotions are real...... much like ours...stop using them.

crossyourarms
216
Points
crossyourarms 12/01/13 - 11:37 am
3
2
Animal studies are not on the

Animal studies are not on the decline. Funny how they can just decree that this is so with ZERO references.

Kay Kirkland
7
Points
Kay Kirkland 12/01/13 - 01:45 pm
5
1
GRU...STOP THE TORTURE!

There is absolutely no reason to be using animals for testing purposes for cosmetic issues! NO REASON! I don't agree with using animals for any kind of testing...but for cosmetic purposes is wrong from the word go!

Why can't they produce an approval letter if this was ok?

Bizkit
33038
Points
Bizkit 12/01/13 - 06:24 pm
1
4
You can separate a part to

You can't separate a part to study a whole-that's illogical. Tissue culture is over a hundred years and it hasn't replaced whole animal studies. Even animal studies are a prelude to human studies where bad things happen to people too. Science is a process-it isn't necessarily a clean or perfect one. Thanks to evolution animals can be used as test subjects for more iffy experiments rather than human testing. You should remember before animal testing they used humans-and there are some real horror stories of the beginning of cancer treatments to fighting disease. If you want to study the circulatory system just looking at a major artery like the aorta and ignoring the heart and rest of the vasculature will yield you only part of the story. I guess many would prefer going back to testing on humans-like in prison so if they die who cares?

Bizkit
33038
Points
Bizkit 12/01/13 - 02:21 pm
2
2
For the last time it isn't

For the last time it isn't cosmetic surgery-that is just plain ignorant or lying like the president of the US because of an agenda.

Fiat_Lux
15912
Points
Fiat_Lux 12/01/13 - 02:56 pm
3
1
It really is a fact, sadly enough,

that you simply can't fix stupid.

Little Lamb
46998
Points
Little Lamb 12/01/13 - 03:00 pm
1
2
Nonvertebrates

From the story:

. . . animals used in research today . . . the other roughly 4 percent are rabbits and nonvertebrates such as zebra fish.

The Chronicle should correct Ms. McManus’ story. Zebrafish are indeed vertebrates.

Also, for the record the correct biological term is invertebrate when identifying animals without vertebrae. Zebrafish are definitely not invertebrates, either.

Little Lamb
46998
Points
Little Lamb 12/01/13 - 03:15 pm
1
3
Planting Misinformation

This Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, or CAAT, is playing reporters, including Ms. McManus like a drum. Look at this paragraph from her story:

While some animal research is required by law for toxicology tests, opponents say animals are still suffering for unnecessary cosmetics research and testing of products that already have been developed and approved. The European Union this year banned the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals.

Notice how Ms. Joanne Zurlo, CAAT Director of Science Strategy, cleverly planted the suggestion in Ms. McManus’ mind that Grooo researchers are using animals for cosmetic ingredients testing. That certainly is not true. It is the cosmetic industry (Avon, Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, Maybelline, etc.) that is conducting cosmetic ingredient tests on animals, not medical research universities. But by misleading this Chronicle reporter, CAAT is advancing its agenda, as is the Humane Society in releasing a propaganda video.

Also, I chide Tracey McManus in her use of this propaganda technique:

While some animal research is required by law for toxicology tests, opponents say animals are still suffering for unnecessary cosmetics research and testing of products that already have been developed and approved.

When a reporter uses the sneaky “opponents say,” or “critics say” and then leave them nameless, you leave the reader powerless to discover the credentials of the opponents and critics. The sources should be listed, and good journalism would also require that spokespersons from the cosmetics industry should be quoted in the story.

Little Lamb
46998
Points
Little Lamb 12/01/13 - 03:22 pm
2
4
Luddites

Here is another ridiculous notion:

While some animal research is required by law for toxicology tests, opponents say animals are still suffering for unnecessary . . . testing of products that already have been developed and approved.

These unnamed "opponents" are planting this notion out there by using naive reporters to publish that once a medical device (e.g., a dental implant) is approved by the FDA that no more research into dental implants should go forward. After all, we've now got an approved dental implant. Well, I'm glad they didn't stop with the first approved artificial heart valve implant. It was a piece of junk compared with the heart valve implants we've got today.

Researchers must go on trying to improve things. We cannot sit still or we're going backward.

Perhaps that is what these animal research "opponents" whoever they are, want.

bpeita
80
Points
bpeita 12/01/13 - 03:32 pm
2
0
What are they hiding?

Whether this was cosmetic surgery or not is a moot point. One would think that if GRU Dental had followed procedures, they would be eager to share protocols and approval documents. Because the protocol was heavily redacted and the approval document has not been produced, the only logical conclusion is there are things they don't want the public to know.

albertoli
189
Points
albertoli 12/04/13 - 04:20 pm
0
1
test subjests

If the tests are conducted to help humans, then they should find human test subjects.

Bizkit
33038
Points
Bizkit 12/02/13 - 01:03 am
3
2
Vertebrates and invertebrates

Vertebrates and invertebrates are used in research-much of early neurophysiology was with squid giant axons and short term memory reverberating circuits discovered in Aplysia-sea slugs. Tissue culture or other animal studies are precursor to human testing and application. Dogs aren't a natural species but one created by man. We acted like gods and artificially created all the dog breeds which are all little frankensteins. Most dogs live 3-10 years depending on the breed. They only exist because we maintain and propagate them (except wild dogs which contain more of the wild type wolf genes)-so since we have to kill so many anyways for the health of the whole population=why not use them for research? We can't maintain an infinite population of dogs-nor any species for that matter. Deer populations are maintained for the health of the population as ducks, doves, fish, etc. I don't know if I had to choose between a potential cancer cure for a loved one or sacrificing a hundred dogs-I kill the dogs.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/02/13 - 03:09 pm
0
2
I've no issues with testing

I've no issues with testing the animals and have no issue with death or injury to the animal. It's the price we pay to be able to limit our own suffering/ailments. I do have issue with GRU using the operator up north that was in trouble for abusing animals. They should do more homework for acquisitions. When your supplier is guilty of mistreatment and animal cruelty, YOU are guilty of it as well for patronizing them. Shame!

Red Headed Step Child
4184
Points
Red Headed Step Child 12/02/13 - 03:21 pm
1
1
Cadavers

Unfortunately they can't be used on testing that requires living tissue. When you are studying the effects of implants and if they will reject, etc., you can only use living tissue. Unless live people step up and offer themselves as test subjects, you only have a few options.

noway
201
Points
noway 12/05/13 - 10:18 pm
0
0
bad bad

I wonder if this will be swept under the rug like everything else. I like how they didn't ask anyone from GRU, because they are clueless. Yes, there is still scientific testing on animals, but it is done with oversight and according to the rules. This atrocity was not.

WalterBradfordCannon
1487
Points
WalterBradfordCannon 12/09/13 - 09:28 am
0
0
Although it would be nice to

Although it would be nice to be open and sharing with documents, there is a substantial cost. The Humane Society of the US, and other animal rights groups, make a habit of stalking and harassing people, and the families of people, involved in animal research, and this case is no exception.

The redacted documents follow Georgia State law that allows the redaction of any materials that could reveal the identity of researchers. The documents are, however, transparent and unredacted to the USDA and NIH, both of whom regulate this research.

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