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2006 Mad Science Awards: â€˜winnersâ€™ receive diplomas
Posted 22 November 2006
A giant rat presented researchers at the University of Cardiff with a suitably large diploma for deliberately brain-damaging rats, making injured rats swim through a water maze and forcing chemical pollutants into rats’ windpipes.
Other ‘winners’ included The University of Nottingham, the University of Cambridge and the Royal Free Hospital, London.
Researchers seek to justify the use of rats by presenting them to the public as mere rodents - life forms undeserving of any special consideration. But to see them as nothing more than laboratory tools betrays a gross lack of sophistication and sensitivity.
In fact, scientists have begun to discover what rat fanciers have long known - that rats are capable of showing great affection for humans and for one another, and that they form highly functional societies where, for example, the strong will help the weak to obtain food. Ultrasonic recordings of rats at play have revealed the emitting of chirps - inaudible to the human ear - that are considered to be the equivalent of human laughter. Equally illuminating is the discovery that rats mourn.
Despite the fact that rats have four legs and a tail, live for only 2-3 years, have no gall bladder and cannot vomit, researchers still use them to try to solve human health problems. Recipients of Animal Aid’s Mad Science Awards for research on rats include:
University of Nottingham where rats’ screams of pain were recorded
In a collaborative behaviour study with the University of Ireland, male rats were injected with formalin - a toxic chemical that causes considerable and lasting pain. They were then put inside a perspex chamber that administered repeated electric shocks to their feet. A microphone was placed above the chamber to record the rats’ cries of pain, communicated in ultrasound.
University of Cambridge where rats were turned into drug addicts
Plastic tubes were surgically implanted into the brains of 100 rats and, at the same time, a second tube was inserted into their neck vein - major, invasive surgery. The rats were made dependent on cocaine, with some receiving 30 doses during three-hour sessions over a 10-day period. Several days later, the rats received two different combinations of two experimental drugs that were intended to block the cravings of the animals. The rats were killed so that their brains could be studied. Researchers declared that blocking the cravings in human drug addicts might be possible.
The London Royal Free Hospital where deliberately-damaged rats died trying to pass urine
Eight rats were anaesthetised and had their abdomens cut open. A jeweller’s ‘jump’ ring was applied around their urinary passage and the abdomens were closed. Two rats died three days after surgery from the effects of an over-full bladder. All the remaining animals were killed after three weeks. Researchers noted that the damage seen in the rats’ bladders was quite different from that seen in rabbits and in humans.