Mad Science 2006 : Rats crippled in nutrition tests
Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London investigated the medicinal use of polyunsaturated fats.
Thirty-eight rats had part of their spinal cords surgically sliced under anaesthesia. A second group of 22 rats had part of their spinal cords crushed beneath a weight in order to cause nerve damage. Thirty minutes later, all the animals received an injection of different fatty acid chemicals.
The first group was forced to perform tasks, including walking on beams - no doubt a stressful and difficult task given their spinal damage, which had rendered them unable to use their bladders unaided. In fact, technicians had to manually void their bladders twice a day for more than a week until they regained the reflex to empty their own bladders. After a week, these rats were killed by lethal injection and their spines examined.
The second group was forced to walk over horizontal ladders and these rats were kept alive for up to six weeks, at which point they also were killed and their spines examined. The researchers concluded that omega-3 fatty acids helped keep more nerve cells alive in the damaged spinal cord than the omega-6 fatty acids, because the rats who received the former had better outcomes and could walk better than those who received the latter.
Had the authors so chosen, this research into the value of fatty acids could have been done non-invasively, involving humans with existing spinal injuries.
Ref. King VR, Huang WL, Dyall SC, Curran OE, Priestley JV, Michael-Titus AT. Journal of Neuroscience2006; 26(17): 4672-4680. ‘Omega-3 fatty acids improve recovery, whereas omega-6 fatty acids worsen outcome, after spinal cord injury in the adult rat.’
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