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RESEARCH ETHICS By Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., and Nancy Beck, Ph.D.
Nonanimal Neurotoxicity Model Shows Promise
A scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency is working on a strategy to replace neurotoxicity testing on animals. The developmental neurotoxicity test typically involves dosing pregnant animals with chemicals and then testing their offspring for neurodevelopmental defects.
While the test is intended to detect chemicals that might be harmful to a child’s developing neural system, it is difficult to link results of these tests to human neurodevelopmental diseases, such as autism spectrum disorder.
In the EPA laboratories in North Carolina, Josh Harrill, Ph.D., is working to model in a test tube all the ways neural cells can be disturbed by toxins. Putting these models together will help scientists determine how a chemical might affect the developing nervous system.
His work with an assay that measures lack of neurite outgrowth from neural cells uses human cells, which he found were more sensitive to neurotoxins than were rat cells. Preliminary tests with several different neurotoxins known to inhibit neurite outgrowth show this model to be a promising step in developing a nonanimal method.
Presented at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, March 2010.
Europe’s New Guide on Avoiding Animal Testing
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recently published a guide to help industry avoid animal testing. ECHA is implementing Europe’s new chemical regulation REACH, which will require companies around the world to perform tests on their chemicals—including animal tests.
Following meetings in which PCRM and other organizations pushed the agency to do more to prevent animal testing, it has published a series of six practical guides for using nonanimal alternatives and an overall guide on avoiding animal testing. The agency has also promised consequences for companies that do not attempt to use available nonanimal strategies before conducting animal tests.
New Strategy Could Reduce Animal-Based Cancer Tests
The Food and Drug Administration may adopt a new strategy that could prevent up to 40 percent of animal-based cancer tests. The FDA currently requires drug companies to test most new pharmaceuticals on two species of animals—rats and mice—for two years to see if the animals develop cancer. These tests can use between 1,000 and 1,500 animals per pharmaceutical.
This year, scientists with the pharmaceutical industry trade group PhRMA presented a plan in which they would use information from prior studies, obviating the need for new tests. According to an analysis of past data, this method may prevent 40 percent of cancer tests. The FDA is reviewing the data and may modify their requirements later this year.
Presented at the Society of Toxicology annual meeting, March 2010.
NUTRITION By Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., and Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.
Military Eyes Healthier School Food, Slimmer Recruits
Unhealthful foods served in school lunch lines could be undermining national security, according to a new report by senior retired military leaders who are pushing for smart investments in future generations. The report shows that three-fourths of young adults age 17 to 24 are unable to serve in the military, and excess weight is the most common medical reason. The report authors are calling on Congress to take immediate steps to improve foods and beverages served in schools to address our nation’s childhood obesity crisis, which threatens the future strength of our military.
Christenson W, Taggart A, Messner-Zidell S. Too fat to fight: retired military leaders want junk food out of America’s schools. Washington, DC: Mission: Readiness;2010. Available at: http://missionreadiness.org./MR%20National%20Obesity%20Report.pdf. Accessed April 20, 2010.
What’s Contributing to Obesity? Meat, Cheese, Grease, Ice Cream
An increase in childhood obesity reflects increased intake of oils, meat, cheese, and frozen desserts, according to a new study by PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dr. Barnard looked at food data maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1909 to 2007. Meat intake rose from 123 pounds to more than 200 pounds per person per year with a greater than six-fold increase in chicken and turkey intake alone. In 2007, Americans also ate nine times more cheese and 16 times more frozen desserts than they did in 1909. Oil intake increased from 35 pounds to more than 86 pounds per person per year during the same interval. Since 1970 (no prior data available), sweetener consumption doubled, mostly from carbonated beverages. Other long-term trends include decreased grain consumption, decreased fluid milk consumption, and increased fruit (mostly juices) and vegetable intake.
Barnard ND. Trends in food availability, 1909-2007. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(suppl):1S-7S.
Animal Protein Bad for Bones
Animal protein is associated with decreased bone health, according to a recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition. In Beijing, 757 girls with an average age of 10 years were randomly assigned to a group consuming cow’s milk fortified with calcium, one consuming cow’s milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D, or a third group that served as controls and made no changes. Bone mass was measured at the beginning of the study and at 12, 24, 48, and 60 months. While calcium intake was positively associated with bone health, animal protein, especially from meat and eggs, was negatively associated with bone mineral density and content.
Zhang Q, Ma G, Greenfield H, et al. The association between dietary protein intake and bone mass accretion in pubertal girls with low calcium intakes. Br J Nutr. 2010;103:714-723.
Erectile Dysfunction Linked to Heart Disease
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is associated with increased risk of fatal heart attacks, according to a new study in the journal Circulation. Among 1,519 adult male research participants, those with ED had twice the risk of death from any cause, compared with those without ED. Men with ED were also 60 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or heart-related hospitalization or death. The new study confirms previous findings showing that both ED and heart disease are usually signs of atherosclerosis.
Bohm M, Baumhakel M, Teo K, et al. Erectile dysfunction predicts cardiovascular events in high-risk patients receiving Telmisartan, Ramipril, or both. The ONgoing Telmisartan Alone and in combination with Ramipril Global Endpoint Trial/Telmisartan Randomized Assessment Study in ACE intolerant subjects with cardiovascular Disease (ONTARGET/TRANSCEND) Trials. Circulation. 2010;121:1439-1446.