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ALTERNATIVES TO ANIMAL EXPERIMENTATION
Monkey Experimenter Admits to Using Wrong Drug, Withdraws Study
Researcher George Ricaurte has recanted a study reporting that the drug MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy, causes brain damage in humans, after realizing his lab had mistakenly administered methamphetamine. One reason the error was not discovered earlier was that the subjects were non-human primates, unable to describe symptoms as humans can. The study had come under fire even before the drug mix-up became known because human studies had failed to show a connection between ecstasy and this type of brain damage and also because the MDMA was administered via injection, not orally, as it is usually taken.
Ricaurte GA, Yuan J, Hatzidimitriou G, Cord BJ, McCann UD. Retraction. Science. 2003;301:1479.
The National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center uses a diagnostic peritoneal lavage simulation program in tandem with a vascular access device to simulate surgical intrument insertion.
Nonanimal Teaching Method Validated
Physicians completing Advanced Trauma Life Support courses can now train using SimPL, a simulator used to teach diagnostic peritoneal lavage, a core skill that has been commonly practiced on pigs. Researchers at the National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center found that students who trained on SimPL had significantly increased performance. A sophisticated graphics interface, immediate performance feedback, and reduced costs make the simulator the preferred choice for teachers and students.
Public Opposed to Animal Gene Studies
The majority of adults surveyed (51 percent) believe genetic manipulation of animals for use in drug manufacturing is a bad idea. Companies are attempting to mix genes from different species to make medicines or clone livestock for organ transplantation.
UW Professor Barred from Animal Experimentation
Chen Dong, assistant professor of immunology at the University of Washington, was barred indefinitely from conducting animal experiments. The decision came after the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) discovered numerous animal treatment violations, including cutting the tips of tails off mice without anesthesia, withholding food, and failing to euthanize animals who were suffering. Dong also ran experiments without the committee’s mandatory approval. The Journal of Clinical Investigation asked Dong to retract a study it published after learning IACUC approval was falsified. UW animal care staff members had been reporting signs of abuse as early as 2000.
The Seattle Times, November 2003.
Drug Advertisements Mislead Consumers
Researchers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia analyzed 193 articles from 24 Canadian daily newspapers on the prescription drugs Celebrex, Lipitor, Evista, Tamiflu, and Aricept. They found that more than two-thirds of the reports did not mention side effects; those that did listed them in the bottom half of the article. Contraindications were disclosed in just 4 percent of cases, and, in instances where financial ties existed between drug companies and the individuals offering testimonials, the relationship was generally not revealed. Researchers say the situation is even worse in the United States, where direct-to-consumer drug advertisements are legal.
Cassels A, Hughes MA, Cole C, Mintzes B, Lexchin J, McCormack JP. Drugs in the news: an analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage of new prescription drugs. CMAJ. 2003;168: 1133-1137.
Fish for the Heart? Not Very Smart
A new study shows that salmon carry high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into remote areas of the United States. University of Ottawa researchers are seeing once-pristine Alaskan lakes, such as those surrounding Kodiak Island, become exceedingly polluted as salmon return to these areas each summer to spawn. As the dead salmon decompose in the lakes’ sediment, PCBs from their tissues contaminate the water. PCBs are created during the manufacturing of materials such as flame-retardants and paints. They concentrate in animal tissues and accumulate in humans who consume them, and are very difficult to eliminate.
Krummel EM, Macdonald RW, Kimpe LE, et al. Aquatic ecology: delivery of pollutants by spawning salmon. Nature. 2003;425:255-256.
You Can Control Most Risk Factors
We have more control over heart health than many of us realize, according to new studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers analyzed 14 clinical trials and 3 observational studies of heart disease patients, finding that 80 to 90 percent of patients who developed clinically significant coronary heart disease and more than 95 percent of patients who experienced a fatal heart event were either smokers or had at least one of these major risk factors: diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol—all strongly linked to diet.
Khot UN, Khot MB, Bajzer CT, et al. Prevalence of conventional risk factors in patients with coronary heart disease. JAMA 2003;290:898-904.
Greenland P, Knoll MD, Stamler J, et al. Major risk factors as antecedents of fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease events. JAMA. 2003;290:891-897.
Flavonoids Provide Protection
As reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who consumed the highest amount of flavonoids (compounds found in plant foods) had a 20 percent reduction in heart disease risk. The meta-analysis, including more than 100,000 people, looked at seven previously published studies and found that flavonoids, particularly the kinds found in black tea, onions, apples, and broccoli, provided significant protection against the disease.
Huxley RR, Neil HA. The relation between dietary flavonol intake and coronary heart disease mortality: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57:904-908.
Birth Defects Higher for Overweight Mothers
A study from the Centers for Disease Control found that babies born to overweight mothers face a higher risk for birth defects than those born to normal weight women.
Women who were overweight at the time of conception had twice the risk of having babies with heart abnormalities, and obese women were more than three times as likely to deliver babies with spina bifida or the abdominal malformation omphelocele.
The case-control study, which compared women who delivered babies with birth defects in a five-county area of Atlanta, Ga., between 1993 and 1997 to mothers who gave birth to healthy babies during the same time period, provides the most comprehensive evidence to date of the link between maternal obesity and birth defects.
Watkins ML, Rasmussen SA, Honein MA, Botto LD, Moore CA. Maternal obesity and risk for birth defects. Pediatrics. 2003;111:1152-1158.