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ALTERNATIVES TO ANIMAL RESEARCH
Groundbreaking Database Project Set to Cut Animal Testing
Pharmaceutical companies often use animals not only to test new drugs but also to test the inactive ingredients that go into their products. Excipients, as they are called, are often the same from one company to the next. But because competing companies do not share their test data, the same compounds are tested on animals again and again.
This spring, however, a major initiative has been launched to create a proprietary data repository for the test results of excipients. U.K.-based simulation organization Lhasa Ltd. has brought together 10 pharmaceutical companies and devised a way to safeguard each company’s data while constructing a searchable, referable toxicity database that can be used instead of animal tests.
Lhasa Limited in collaboration project to drive further reduction in the need for animal testing. Available at: http://www.lhasalimited.org/index.php?cat=6&sub_cat=6#15. Accessed May 14, 2007.
Relief on the Way for Chronic Wound Healing Research
PCRM has often spoken out against wound research using animals. This research usually involves the intentional infliction of severe or catastrophic wounds on animals in order to test a potential therapy, or deliberately infecting an animal’s wounds to prevent healing. Now, scientists, led by Dr. Phil Stephens of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, are developing a research model that can help determine factors behind chronic wound diseases without the use of animals.
Funded by the Dr Hadwen Trust, Dr. Stephens uses tissues donated by human patients and genetic techniques to determine molecular factors behind differences between healthy and ulcerated tissue. Dr. Stephens said, “We hope that the development of this laboratory model will be an important and unique resource for wound healing researchers worldwide.”
Dr Hadwen Trust Press Release. March 12, 2007.
Progress in Hepatic Modeling: A Pioneering Initiative
More than a dozen experts at the University College London have pooled their expertise in computer sciences, physiology, child health, and chemical engineering to work on a monumental project: a working computer model of the human liver. The UCL Beacon project seeks to allow the study of important liver diseases, such as diabetes or cirrhosis, as well as other liver functions, such as the metabolism of chemicals or drugs. The project is extraordinarily complex, but it is a promising step toward more ethical and effective research, especially when combined with the latest news about in vitro liver tissue models (see Good Medicine, “The Latest In” column, Spring 2007).
UCL Beacon Project Web site. Available at: http://grid.ucl.ac.uk/biobeacon/php/index.php?id=frontpage. Accessed May 11, 2007.
Low-Fat Dairy Products Linked to Increased Infertility Risk
A new study found low-fat dairy product consumption is linked to an increased risk of infertility. A total of 18,555 premenopausal women from the Nurses’ Health Study II who attempted a pregnancy or became pregnant between 1991 and 1999 were evaluated for the association between dairy products and infertility. Women who consumed two or more servings per day of low-fat dairy products had 1.85 times the risk for infertility. While total dairy product intake was not associated with an increased risk of infertility, the majority of fat in dairy products is saturated fat, which is linked to increased cholesterol, insulin resistance, overweight and obesity, and other health problems.
Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner B, Willet WC. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Hum Reprod. 2007;22(5):1340-1347.
Meat-Eating Moms Have Less-Fertile Sons
A new study in Human Reproduction finds that a pregnant woman’s meat consumption can reduce her future son’s sperm count. Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York analyzed the relationship between various sperm parameters of 387 men and the eating habits of their mothers from the Study for Future Families. The more beef a mother consumed, the lower her son’s sperm concentration. Sperm count was 24 percent higher in men whose mothers consumed less beef. The difference may be due to steroid hormones found in animal products. Six hormones are commonly used in the United States to induce increased growth and development in cows, and measurable levels are routinely present in the animals’ muscle, fat, liver, kidneys, and other organs. Cattle raised without extra hormones still have significant hormone levels in their tissues because of endogenous hormone production, and the nutrient profile of animal products tends to elevate hormone levels in the human body.
Swan SH, Liu F, Overstreet JW, Brazil C, Skakkebaek NE. Semen quality of fertile US males in relation to their mothers’ beef consumption during pregnancy. Hum Reprod. Advance access published on March 28, 2007.
High Calcium and Vitamin D Intake May Lead to Cognitive Impairment
Duke University researchers recently found an association between a high dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D and brain lesion volume in elderly men and women. Researchers believe that the problem may be due to the effects of calcification and bonelike formations in blood vessels. Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and may accelerate this process.
Investigator Martha Payne designed this study after finding a similar association between high-fat dairy products and brain lesions. Current dietary calcium and Vitamin D recommendations for adults over 50 years of age are 1,200 mg and 400 to 600 I.U., respectively. The findings suggest that these recommendations may be too high for portions of the general population. Calcium recommendations are set high in Western countries to compensate for the bone loss resulting from diets high in animal protein, sodium, and other calcium wasters. The World Health Organization acknowledges that less dietary calcium is needed when animal protein consumption is low.
Payne ME, Anderson JJB, Steffens DC. Calcium and vitamin D intakes are positively associated with brain lesions in depressed and non-depressed elders. Presentation at the meeting of American Society for Nutrition: Experimental Biology 2007. May 1, 2007, Washington, DC.
Dairy Products Linked to Parkinson’s Disease
A new study from the American Journal of Epidemiology links the consumption of dairy products to an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease. Researchers studied this association among 388 men and women with Parkinson’s disease participating in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II. Those who consumed the most dairy milk had a 70 percent greater risk for the disease.
Chen H, O’Reilly E, McCullough ML, Rodriguez C, et al. Consumption of dairy products and risk of Parkinson’s disease. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;165:998-1006.