Out of hours press enquiries, call 07918 195 238.
MAN OR MOUSE New report reveals the futility of GM animal research
Posted 12 October 2005
As the new Home Office annual statistics on animals in medical research are released, anti-vivisection organisation Animal Aid publishes a report that examines the craze for genetically-modified (GM) animals.
The number of animal experiments conducted in the UK fell by 40% between 1975 and 1985. The use of 'normal' animals has continued to decline at a similar rate since then. However, the promise that GM animals would generate 'miracle therapies' has caused a boom in their production, and a consequent increase in the total number of experiments taking place. GM animals now constitute almost one third of all procedures.
Probing the much-hyped 'success rate' of GM animal 'models', the new report - called Man or Mouse, and written by University of Newcastle geneticist Dr Jarrod Bailey - demonstrates that there is an inherent flaw in the so-called transgenic model. Far from providing a failsafe new research tool, it represents what Dr Bailey terms 'a scientific dead-end'.
A thorough analysis of scientific papers reveals that, rather than 'fixing' the old non-GM animal models, some 70% of cases where a GM animal is created in the hope of replicating human symptoms, the animal does not 'perform' as expected.
Man or Mouse highlights cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer's disease research - in which the biggest intellectual and financial investments in mouse models have been made - to illustrate the myriad ways GM animals fail to mirror human conditions. Dr Bailey finds that, whilst cystic fibrosis affects the pancreas in almost all human sufferers and kills via lung infections, mice with supposedly identical genetic mutations to human CF patients do not show these effects. Rather, they die early from intestinal blockages, which are themselves not seen in humans.
Similarly, GM mice with 'identical' brain pathology to human Alzheimer's disease (AD) sufferers show no or only slight AD symptoms. They also fail to shed light on the function of genes strongly linked with the human condition. Man or Mouse demonstrates that GM animal models of other human diseases, such as Parkinson's and diabetes, have also failed.
The heavy welfare burden imposed on both GM breeders and offspring raises other important ethical questions. Millions are destroyed at birth because they do not exhibit specific characteristics. The success rate for creating animals born with the desired traits is less than 1%. Others are killed because they suffer catastrophic and unexpected malformations.
States Dr Jarrod Bailey:
"Transgenesis may well be scientifically intriguing and challenging, but it is also a folly. GM animals have made a negative contribution to human medicine. Human-specific research and cutting-edge technologies are the only way to achieve safe, efficient cures and treatments for human diseases. Competition for medical sector funding remains acute, so an important choice confronts society: directing more sources at animal-based research with a fruitless track record or supporting work that is directly relevant to the patients of today and tomorrow."
Andre Menache, Scientific Consultant to Animal Aid, adds:
"Far from being the way ahead, this grotesque 'franken-science' impedes medical progress by years. Animal Aid calls for a public inquiry into the scientific validity of all animal experiments. We are confident that, should this take place, the fallacy of such research will be revealed."
Notes to Editors
- To arrange a media interview with the report's author, Dr Jarrod Bailey, or with Andre Menache, Scientific Consultant to Animal Aid, please call 01732 364546, ext 233 or email Andre.
- ISDN line available for broadcast quality interviews.
- The report can be viewed/downloaded at /h/n/CAMPAIGNS/experiments/ALL/740/