A Catalogue of Shame
Twenty-four adult male mongrel dogs were used in an experiment to test the toxic effects of Cyclosporin (an anti-rejection drug) on the kidney. All of the dogs were anaesthetised and had both of their kidneys removed. The kidneys were kept without a blood supply for 60 minutes, so as to deliberately damage them, before reconnecting the blood supply. Some kidneys suffered more severe damage than others.
The dogs were divided into groups. Some were grafted with their own kidneys, while others were given the kidneys of other dogs; some of the dogs received the anti-rejection drug, while others did not. The dogs were then allowed to recover from their surgery.
Two dogs died from kidney failure on the third and fourth post-transplant days, while three more died a few days later. The researchers concluded that cyclosporin was not toxic to the kidneys at normal dose levels in dogs. They also noted that similar results to these had been obtained by other workers using rats and rabbits. They added: 'If Cyclosporin A is responsible for impaired renal function in the human, perhaps there is a species difference between dog and man.'
Effect of Cyclosporin A upon the function
of ischemically damaged renal autografts in the dog.
Transplantation 1980 Vol. 30, No. 3, 228-230. Homan W, French M, Morris P.
Nuffield Department of Surgery, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford.
Funding: Medical Research Council (UK) and Wellcome Trust
The drug being tested causes liver, kidney and nerve damage in human patients but not in cats and dogs - as noted by the expert testimony below.
"In human patients, cyclosporin nephrotoxicity [kidney damage]
is its major limiting factor as an immunosuppressive drug, although
cyclosporin is generally not nephrotoxic in the dog and cat. Hepatotoxicity
[liver damage] and neurotoxicity [nerve damage] also occur in human
patients, but have not been a problem in the dog and cat."
Ref. Gregory C, Waltham Focus 1995, Vol. 5, No.1.
Twenty adult beagle dogs were used in an experiment to compare the effects of two intravenous anaesthetics on the heart, in conjunction with deliberate interference to its blood supply. All of the dogs were anaesthetised, placed on their sides, and had their hearts exposed by the surgical removal of two ribs. Blood vessels leading to and supplying the heart were closed off for a period of 10 minutes.
The results were taken from only 14 of the dogs, as six of the animals died during the actual experiment - most of them from heart attacks. No mention was made in the paper of the fate of the remaining 14 dogs. At the end of the experiment, the researchers concluded that there was no significant difference between the two anaesthetic drugs used with respect to recovery of heart function. However, they did suggest that, because a relatively small number of animals was used, the experimental findings could not be regarded as being very conclusive.
A comparison of the effects of fentanyl
and propofol on left ventricular contractility during myocardial
Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 1998; Vol. 42: 23-31.
Ross S, Munoz H, Piriou V, Ryder A, Foex P. The Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, The Radcliffe Infirmary, University of Oxford.
Funding: Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, and Medical Research Council.
It is difficult to see how the results of an experiment involving healthy dog hearts, which have been artificially manipulated, can have any meaningful application to diseased dogs, much less to human patients. Researchers themselves do not agree on which 'animal model' most closely resembles the human heart. Some consider pigs more relevant models than dogs because pigs' hearts have a poorer collateral blood supply than dogs.
Ten five week old kittens had the eyelids of one eye sewn together and kept closed for 10 days. In five of the kittens, the sewn eye was then opened, while the healthy eye was surgically manipulated to make it squint. Fourteen days later, the kittens were anaesthetised and had part of their skulls removed in order to expose the brain area that is responsible for vision. Behavioural and optical imaging experiments were subsequently performed.
There is no mention in the article as to whether the kittens were allowed to recover from the experiment or whether they were euthanased.
The authors do not provide any clear conclusion. Instead, they explain why their study appears to contradict that of other researchers, and also why the results could differ when the experiment is performed in monkeys.
Correlated binocular activity guides recovery
from monocular deprivation.
Nature 2002; Vol. 416: 430-433.
Kind P, Mitchell D, Ahmed B, Blakemore C, Bonhoeffer T, Sengplel F.
University laboratory of physiology, Parks Road, Oxford.
Funding: Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (UK), Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Oxford McDonnell Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience.
This is yet another minor variation on a category of research called 'monocular deprivation', often used to study the human condition known as amblyopia ('lazy eye'). Cats were used in this experiment even though their eyes lack a macula and fovea - two areas of critical importance in the human eye. A Harvard trained pediatric opthalmologist commented on this type of research in 1990 in an affadavit (see below) presented in an Israeli court of law. This document, together with several other sworn statements made by eye specialists, all concurred on the lack of applicability of these experiments to the human condition.
"I do not believe that straining to find out new ways of depriving
cats of visual input has added or will add to our knowledge about
the connections of the eye to the visual cortex in cats... even
if it adds a little to our knowledge of visual connections in cats,
the applicability of this knowledge to human amblyopia is essentially
nil. Clinical research, done with children who are actually suffering
from amblyopia would seem to be the only way to find out more about
how to treat this important condition which affects about two percent
of the population."
(Affadavit by Robert Petersen MD, The Children's Hospital, Boston USA)
Sixty-two ferrets, of whom 39 were albino, were used in this study. Their ages ranged from ten weeks to 24 months. Most of the animals were purchased from four commercial UK breeding colonies. Eight of the ferrets were anaesthetised and had a radioactive compound injected directly into their left eye. In conjunction with general anaesthesia, a neuromuscular blocking agent was used - the use of such drugs giving cause for special concern, because the paralysis they produce may mask signs of pain.
Other animals were anaesthetised and surgical slits made in the skull through which to insert several electrodes into the brain. In another six albino and six normal ferrets, a fluorescent compound was injected directly into the brain. Again, these procedures were made under a combination of anaesthesia and paralysis. The skull wounds were covered and the ferrets allowed to recover from the anaesthetic. Seven more albino animals were anaesthetised and received deep brain injections. These animals were allowed to recover and then euthanased 2-7 days later.
The authors conclude that "the results presented here on anaesthetised, paralysed pigmented ferrets are similar to previous studies".
Relay of visual information to the lateral
geniculate nucleus and the visual cortex in albino ferrets.
The Journal of Comparative Neurology 2003, vol 461: 217-235.
Akerman J, Tolhurst D, Morgan J, Baker G, Thompson I.
University laboratory of physiology, Oxford.
Funding: Medical Research Council (UK), Wellcome Trust, McDonnell-Pew Foundation.
The information presented here represents the discovery of scientific data for its own sake - a crumb amongst the millions of other crumbs of basic research that are discoverable, but totally inapplicable to human or animal health.
Click here for part 3 of A Catalogue of Shame, in which we describe four more experiments, and offer our conclusions.