As both dog lovers and researchers, we want to respond to the misrepresentations about research at Georgia Regents University raised by the Humane Society of the United States.
AS A UNIVERSITY, we’re committed to research that improves lives. A recent video released by the HSUS attempted to discredit research into a new antimicrobial coating for dental implants that could help prevent dangerous infections in the gums and bones of the mouth. While we were not directly involved in the research, we are nonetheless familiar with the details of the study because of our roles at GRU. We have seen firsthand that the research conducted at GRU is humane, responsible and highly regulated.
The allegation that dental implant research at GRU is strictly cosmetic, silly or frivolous could not be further from the truth. Infections caused by failed implants are a focus of research in recent years because of the ability of bacteria to get into the bloodstream and infect heart valves and other organs.
This problem is not unique to dental implants, but also occurs with prostheses that are used to replace body parts lost to cancer and trauma. Early detection and prevention are key, but it’s only through research studies such as these that we can improve the surface of the implants.
Our research is guided by what’s known as the “three Rs” – refinement, reduction and replacement. As a university, we’re committed to refining procedures to minimize stress and maximize comfort for laboratory animals. We’re committed to reducing the number of animals used in research. And we’re committed to developing scientific models as alternatives to animal research whenever possible.
THE UNIVERSITY’S Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee ensures that these principles are honored. The committee of faculty, administration and community members approved the research protocol for the study documented by the HSUS. The suggestion that the research was conducted without proper approval is false. Any animal research at GRU without IACUC approval would be a violation of GRU policy and federal law.
In this instance, the dental implant protocol was approved July 15, 2010, and renewed last July 13. The experiments in February through May of this year were conducted under the protocol
approved in 2010. GRU provided the most up-to-date information to the HSUS upon request in late July. The group’s claims appear to be incorrectly based off the
renewal from this past July instead of the original protocol from 2010.
Simply put, the HSUS has alleged fault where there is none. GRU’s protocols and animal-use facilities are reviewed regularly and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the USDA has found no incidents of noncompliance. Dogs are used infrequently in research conducted at the university. In this and every study at GRU, they are obtained only from vendors licensed and inspected by the USDA.
AT GRU, RESEARCHERS are making strides toward better medical devices and treatments. Countless medical breakthroughs – from antibiotics to blood transfusions to vaccinations and chemotherapy – were developed with the help of laboratory animals. Animal research is, for the foreseeable future, a critical component of developing safer dental implants and, ultimately, new cures.
(The writers are, respectively, interim associate dean for research in the Georgia Regents University College of Dental Medicine; and GRU’s senior vice president for research.)