The University of Pittsburgh Is Using Taxpayer Dollars to Conduct Cruel and Unnecessary Animal Experiments
Alternatives to Animal Testing, Experimentation and Dissection - An Animal Rights Article from


Emily Trunnell,
September 2017

The university has received over $1.4 million in federal funding for experiments that won't ultimately help humans. An eyewitness investigation has found that the University of Pittsburgh is using taxpayer dollars to conduct cruel tests on mice, in which the animals suffer long and painful deaths—even after a landmark study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that such tests would not ultimately benefit sick humans.

caged mouse
Photo Credit: Steven Maltby/Shutterstock

Here's a thought experiment: You sit on an oversight committee at a respected university. A faculty member wants approval for experiments that he'd like to conduct. He explains that the animals in these taxpayer-funded studies will suffer a degree of pain that is considered extreme even by animal experimentation standards. You then find out that the results will not be applicable to human health. In other words, sick people won't be helped by them.

Logically, at that point, you would get out your “Rejected” stamp.

But when confronted with this very same situation, the University of Pittsburgh gave the go-ahead.

So a Pitt researcher is now puncturing the intestines of mice so that fecal matter leaks into their bodies, producing a condition known as sepsis—a serious reaction to severe infection. Documents obtained by PETA reveal that the experimenter will use 860 mice over a three-year period and suggest that the mice may not receive adequate post-operative pain relief. As they slowly die, these mice will experience acute pain, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

We’re paying for this cruelty. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences is giving the experimenter over $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars for this project.

Each year, there are more than 1 million new cases of sepsis in the U.S.

Up to half of those patients will not live. Better treatments are needed, but no one is going to find them by experimenting on mice.

In 2013, a landmark study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the results of sepsis experiments on mice can't be applied to humans because the genetic responses of mice to sepsis were "close to random in matching their human counterparts." Close to random.

The study, which took a decade to complete and involved dozens of researchers, was so noteworthy that Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote an article about it. He lamented the "150 drugs that successfully treated this condition in mice" that "later failed in human clinical trials—a heartbreaking loss of decades of research and billions of dollars," adding, "No wonder drugs designed for the mice failed in humans: they were, in fact, treating different conditions!"

That's why Pitt's sepsis experiments are pointless. Here's why they're cruel: A PETA eyewitness investigation found that the septic mice were left to languish in agony, eventually becoming so sick that they were unable to move. One veterinarian who worked in this laboratory observed that they were "falling over dead."

Pitt's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)—the federally mandated oversight body charged with stopping fiascos like this one before they start—approved these experiments. Its members failed the public by green-lighting experiments that are costing taxpayers and aren't going to help anyone. They've also failed the animals in the experiments who suffer needlessly. The IACUC hasn't even managed to ensure that Pitt experimenters adhere to protocols stipulating when an animal must be euthanized in order to avoid "unnecessary" suffering.

The authors of the 2013 sepsis study had a recommendation for researchers: Step away from the mice and instead focus on human-relevant methods of sepsis research.

There may have already been a breakthrough on that front.

A few physicians have recently had impressive results by treating sepsis patients with intravenous vitamin C, although more studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of this therapy.

Good thing this wasn't first tried in mice. Mice, unlike humans, make their own vitamin C, and giving them more doesn't significantly change their circulating levels. So vitamin C would likely have had no beneficial effect on them.

The treatment would have been dismissed as ineffective—a mistaken conclusion, just like in the case of those 150 drugs that were deemed a success because they did work in mice but then failed to help human sepsis patients.

It's time for Pitt and other laboratories to take that advice about leaving the mice in peace and instead adopting animal-free methods of research that hold out real hope for patients.

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