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Originally Posted: May 23, 2013
Please write to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), asking them to stop funding animal experiments with your taxpayer dollars, and to instead fund research that is relevant to human health.
Following the publication of this alert by Humane Research Australia (HRA), the University of Newcastle issued a press release. See PDF
HRA Response to that University of Newcastle Press Release. See PDF
Prof. Warwick Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
GPO Box 1421
Canberra, ACT 2601
Lodge a complaint form at https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about/contact-us/complaint-form
And please write to the following to express your disappointment at such useless research:
Animal Ethics Officer
The University of Newcastle
INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS
The first part of the procedure involved the twelve greyhounds having pulsed Doppler blood flow transducers (a medical device for measuring blood flow) surgically implanted on the right bronchial artery.
In order to achieve this, the dogs were placed under general anaesthesia and a surgical incision was made into the chest wall. The exposure of major organs (heart and lung) and veins illustrates the invasive nature of even this initial part of the study. The transducer wires were passed from the chest cavity through the back of the dogs’ bodies.
A second skin incision was then made along the groove between the shoulder and neck, in order to pass catheters into the aorta, so as to measure aortic and central venous pressures. A second catheter was positioned in the right upper chamber of the heart.
The dogs then underwent a 10 day period of recovery and laboratory training. While the authors stated that antibiotics were given during the recovery period, there was no mention of additional pain relief being given at any point after the initial end of operation period.
After the 10 day post-op period, the dogs underwent another procedure. This time the experiment involved the deliberate decision to abstain from administering any form of general anaesthetic or sedative. This means that the dogs were fully awake and aware of the surgery being conducted on them.
First, “the dogs were placed on their sides and catheters and probes connected to the recording system”. The dogs were (supposedly) “trained to lie unsedated on their side on a padded table with the dog’s attendant at the head”. Under only local anaesthetic, the right femoral artery (thigh) was exposed, and a balloon catheter, with attached balloons, passed into the lower part of the heart. The balloons were then inflated and deflated repeatedly in a sustained manner to s(t)imulate appropriate states of blood pressure / blood flow. The authors stated that “the dogs appeared unaware of the balloon inflation/deflation process during experiments”, despite the lack of sedation or general anaesthesia.
Furthermore, in six of the dogs, the same process was conducted after they were given particular chemicals in order to induce dilation of blood vessels, and therefore slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
In one dog, a catheter was passed through the jugular vein in the neck into the heart, and again the induced change in blood pressure was measured after being raised and lowered through the process of inflation and deflation of the aortic balloon catheter. This invasive part of the study was again conducted using only under local anaesthesia.
The authors stated that the absence of anaesthesia was justified as “it was inappropriate to use anaesthetics and sedatives which selectively block or enhance autonomic activity”.
The authors do not state whether the dogs were euthanised after completion of the study. In the interests of cost efficiency they might be used again, but as Australia does not have retirement facilities for these animals the only other option is to kill them.
The experiment was supported by a Project Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC).
A number of very similar experiments had been conducted in the past, making the replication of the procedure in this study highly questionable. A previous study, undertaken by the same researchers, had its results invalidated by the fact that the dogs became stressed due to unfamiliar staff and inadequate assessment of animal welfare concerns.
Animal Welfare Concerns
The experimental process and care of the dogs was approved by the Animal Care and Ethics Committee of the University of Newcastle. However, Humane Research Australia has a number of concerns about this study, including:
Why were chronic arterial catheters used when the authors themselves state that they are particularly prone to pressure-extrusion in animals?
Why is there no mention of additional pain relief during the recovery period?
How can such invasive surgery as this, including passing catheters through main veins and arteries into the heart, be approved when only local anaesthetic was used?
How can the decision not to use general anaesthesia or sedatives be justified when the experiment involved the inflation and deflation of balloons that were specifically designed to cause a raise in blood pressure, and therefore distress?
The study does not provide any indication of the housing arrangements for the dogs, or where they were sourced from. Can we perhaps presume that they are failed racing dogs?
Was it really necessary to conduct this experiment given that a number of very similar experiments had been conducted in the past? (It would seem not as the results from this study did not differ from those of previous studies)
What the Experts Say:
Comments from Andre Menache BSc(Hons) BVSc MRCVS,Veterinarian:
'T[his].. study is an example of curiosity-driven basic research, which is generally defined thus:
“Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view”
The principal author (McIlveen) has been conducting similar research on dogs and sheep since 1976. Similar animal studies have been criticised by clinical cardiologists, based on cost-benefit analysis (the cost in terms of animal suffering, versus the lack of human medical benefit.
Where such studies are funded by taxpayer money, there is a need for greater transparency and accountability. According to Ray Greek MD, “if society does not condone using sentient animals in research that does not lead to cures and if basic research is just that kind of research, then society does not condone using sentient animals in basic research.”
The following paragraph was written by John J. Pippin MD FACC in a report entitled “Curiosity Killed the Dog”. Although the report refers to another series of dog studies, it could just as well apply to the above study:
By way of overview, this team’s research involves a single area of physiological expertise and a single animal preparation. It has successfully mined those attributes to carry out largely repetitive and unproductive animal studies, using their own and others’ previous findings to carry on with minor variations upon very few central themes. By doing so, they have published scientific articles for over 16 years, without apparent correlation with, or influence upon, similar areas of human physiology or medicine. This body of work amounts, in my view, to a startling example of the pursuit of disconnected scientific knowledge with no clear human benefits, and to the detriment of dogs.
Thank you for everything you do for animals!
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