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Animal research: What you don't know

Posted Dec 29 2010 6:08pm
I've been debating posting this topic for some time now because I know it's near and dear to many hearts. I anticipated many quick judgements and a whole slew of negative posts but decided to roll with it because I think many of you may be misinformed....

The other day, while shopping I came across this gem and without thinking, I said to myself "Ughhh I HATE Peta".
Now don't get me wrong, I eat vegan/vegetarian 85% of the time, don't wear animal fur, and DO support animal rights. What I don't support is Peta's interfering with everything if an animal is involved. I find them outright obnoxious, to the point where I can't take anything they say/do seriously.

Remember this?

PETA called the fly swat an "execution" and wanted the President to show a little more compassion to even the least sympathetic animals. source

Or what about when PETA spent significant amount of money campaigning that Ben and Jerry's Ice cream should switch to Breast Milk ?

* * *

Of all things that bother me about PETA, is their interference on research using animals.

Now before you freakkkk on me, hear me out. There are a few factors you must consider. And I challenge you. For, the best debater knows the other side [and knows it well].

1. I am not referring to the testing of cosmetics, perfumes, etc. I am referring to life-saving drugs such as chemotherapy and antibodies, that treat terminal illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and save lives.

The astonishing conservation of gene function across vast evolutionary distance has made animal models more useful than we have imagined and probably accelerated biomedical research by decades, if not centuries" - Dr. Nancy Hopkins, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2. Most "animal research" is done in fruit flies and zebra fish
Dr. Hopkins' research using zebrafish has shown that "many of the same genes that cause cancer in humans can also cause cancer when introduced or mutated in fish. And in some instances zebra fish have advantages over mouse models, because fish tumors contain an abnormal number of chromosomes, which is common in human tumors but not mice ".  source

3. Every drug on the market (from aspirin to chemotherapy) must be tested before providing to humans because dosing and determining side-effects are crucial. A side effect of unknown concentration is often death, if provided in the incorrect dosage.

There is no way (and correct me if I'm wrong), you would volunteer yourself or a loved one to take a new drug that's never been tested in a mouse and just "hope for the best". Your chance of survival, since most drugs are extremely potent until dosing is established, would be extremely slim. In other worlds, a concentration of 1mg of drug X does not equal 1 mg of drug Y, even if the drugs are similar. One could offer no therapeutic benefit while the other could kill you.

4. There is no other alternative [yet]. If there was a way to create an artificial cell that contained functional DNA, RNA, proteins, transcription factors, signaling pathways, organelles (you get the picture), we would use it.

If you can artificially create this (image of ONE cell), you'll win the next Nobel.

5. Scientists don't want to test on animals. If your loved one was dying, I'm sure you'd prefer her radioactive drug to be tested in a zebra fish or mouse before her. Scientists are people too. They have hearts and souls. No one LIKES doing animal research, but no one also likes seeing millions of children and adults die each year from terminal diseases.

6. Scientists don't just put drugs into dogs, monkeys, horses, etc. They start with single CELLS.

Here's how it goes:

A scientist wants to test drug X (a new chemo drug) to see A) if it works and B) if it kills the right cells (cancer cells and not healthy cells). The scientist first adds drug X to a variety of cancer and healthy cell lines, each grown in a separate petridishes.

Cancer cells growing in flasks
If the results are statistically significant, the scientist would move onto other cell lines. If those results were good he/she might look at the drug in fish. If those results look good he/she might design a mouse study, then a rat study, etc. The chances of a drug getting past a rat model are very slim, because there are many safeguards in place, numerous regulations surrounding the ethical treatment of animals, and for the simple fact that most new trials fail before moving past the mouse phase (i.e. don't yield good data).

7. There are numerous safeguards, laws, regulations, committees, etc. that work closely with all research institutions to insure the safety and well being on animals while fostering the continued growth of biomedical research. For example, mice undergoing surgery as part of a study are subjected to the same pain-reducing measures applied to humans (anesthesia, etc.)

* * *
So what am I trying to accomplish by posting this? I didn't mean to turn this into a "I hate Peta campaign", because I know they do some good things. I wish other pro-animal rights groups that are in existence (there are MANY, just only known to the science-world) would come into the public eye so Peta wasn't the only one making "news" headlines. Because there are a lot of great groups out there, ones that work closely with scientists generating groundbreaking research.

Still have questions? 
Does any of this surprise you? 
If you are still against all animal research, would you refuse a life-saving drug? 

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