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Major Report Calls for More Alternatives to Animal Tests
The scientific community has a “moral imperative” to develop alternatives, says a new report on animal tests by a British think tank. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics also calls for improvements in the lengthy validation process currently used to approve new nonanimal tests.
Two years ago, the council convened a working group of scientists, ethicists, and animal protection advocates. Although this diverse group did not reach any agreement as to whether animal experiments are scientifically useful or ethically acceptable, it did make a number of strong recommendations that could, if implemented, reduce the numbers of animals used in laboratories.
The Nuffield Council is funded in part by the government and two private foundations, one endowed by a pharmaceutical company. On the day the report was issued, the British government announced it would grant an additional $5.5 million to a new center working on alternatives.
Nuffield Council on Bioethics. The ethics of research involving animals. May 2005. Available at: www.nuffieldbioethics.org. Accessed June 6, 2005.
Research Lab in Florida Goes Animal-Free
A Florida research company that originally planned to use animals has had a change of heart. Two years ago, Suspended Animation, Inc., had asked the Boca Raton City Council for a permit to build a “cryopreservation” laboratory to study the freezing and resuscitation of human bodies, planning to experiment on animals in the process. But the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida worked with PCRM to convince the city council to reject the company’s permit. The company has since undergone a complete metamorphosis that includes a commitment to leave animals out of its research plans. It is now scheduled to open a facility in Boynton Beach.
New Microscope Advances Nonanimal Research
|Dr. Steven Finkbeiner and lead author Montserrat Arrasate use the robotic microscope.|
Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, have created a robotic microscope that revolutionizes in vitro research. Using the power of computers, this device automates the time-consuming and laborious process of following the lives and deaths of thousands of individual cells. Capable of photographing as many as 600,000 neurons at once, or at different intervals of time, the microscope allows researchers to visualize the effects on individual cells of an agent such as a toxic chemical or therapeutic drug.
Researchers could use such a tool to test therapies for nearly any disease at the cellular level; it is particularly applicable to studies of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. And in cancer research, not only could scientists see what types of cells are affected by chemotherapy drugs, they could monitor the very process by which a cell becomes cancerous.
Arrasate M, Finkbeiner S. Automated microscope system for determining factors that predict neuronal fate. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005;102:3840-5.
Acne Associated with Dairy Intake
A new Harvard study links dairy products to adolescent acne. A group of 47,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study was asked to provide information about several aspects of their diet during high school as well as any incidence of physician-diagnosed severe teenage acne. Researchers noted a positive association with total milk and skim milk consumption, along with instant breakfast drinks, sherbet, cottage cheese, and cream cheese. No association was found with several other foods often thought to affect acne, including soda, french fries, chocolate candy, and pizza. The scientists postulate that hormones and bioactive ingredients found in milk may be responsible.
Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Danby FW, Frazier AL, Willettt WC, Holmes MD. High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005;52:207-14.
Fish May Increase Heart Disease Risk
A recently published study reveals a little-known problem with fish consumption. Finnish researchers have discovered that mercury, a heavy metal and dangerous environmental poison commonly found in fish, not only increases the risk of heart disease, but may also negate the supposed heart-protective benefits of fish. Of the 1,871 men studied in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, those with the highest mercury content had a 60 percent increased risk of an acute coronary event and a 68 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease overall. The amount of mercury found in the men was directly related to their fish intake.
Virtanen JK, Voutilainen S, Rissanen, TH, et al. Mercury, fish oils, and risk of acute coronary events and cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and all-cause mortality in men in eastern Finland. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2005;25:228-33.
Milk Consumption May Pose Risk Factor for Parkinson’s
A new study strengthens evidence suggesting a connection between milk intake and Parkinson’s disease. Researchers from the Honolulu Heart Program have found that adult milk intake doubles the risk for the disease. After gathering data on the diets of 7,500 men, researchers tracked milk intake, as well as intake of dietary calcium from non-dairy sources, along with other lifestyle factors, for 30 years. A significant association was found only for milk, with those drinking more than 16 ounces per day suffering twice the incidence of Parkinson’s compared to those who drank no milk at all. Researchers theorize that the contamination of milk with pesticides and other neurotoxins may play a role.
Park M, Ross GW, Petrovitch H, et al. Consumption of milk and calcium in midlife and the future risk of Parkinson’s disease. Neurology. 2005;64:1047-51.