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RESEARCH ETHICS By Kristie Stoick, M.P.H., and John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
ALTERNATIVES TO ANIMAL RESEARCH
A Good Summer for Primates
Following a German animal welfare regulation designed to limit egregious animal experiments, the Bremen Parliament denied Andreas Kreiter permission to perform invasive neurological experiments on monkeys at the University of Bremen. The experiments, which are similar to experiments performed at the University of California, San Francisco, that inspired PCRM member physicians in California to file a lawsuit against the school, involved the deprivation of water and implantation of electrodes into the monkeys’ brains. The monkeys would have been strapped into stereotaxic chairs for as long as six hours.
Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources announced in May that its ban on chimpanzee breeding in government laboratories will be permanent. The original breeding moratorium was put in place in 1995, as a temporary measure, after scientists failed to develop a chimpanzee “model” of human immunodeficiency virus.
Schiermeier, Q. Primate work faces German veto. Nature. 2007;446:955.
Researchers Grow Cellular Model of Human Breast Cancer
Researchers at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry in London have grown a three-dimensional cellular model of human breast cancer and are now using it to study how breast cells become cancerous. The work was funded by the Dr Hadwen Trust, a Humane Charity Seal of Approval charity, and could be a big step in the replacement of mice in breast cancer research.
Radowitz, J. Cancer model could end animal testing. The Scotsman, May 9, 2007.
Test-Tube Human Immune System Could Replace Rabbit Test
Several tests detect pyrogens—microscopic agents that cause a dangerous fever reaction—in medical products and devices. These tests include the rabbit pyrogen tests, which use live rabbits, the bacterial endotoxin test, which uses the blood of horseshoe crabs, and in-vitro tests that use whole human blood cells or cell lines. A laboratory at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, Germany, has developed an in-vitro test using human cell lines, which have not yet been validated to replace the rabbit tests, that may be more accurate than the current tests. The test uses cell lines with receptors that initiate the human fever response and change color when the receptor is activated. While the test has proven effective at detecting some kinds of pyrogens so far, it is on its way to detecting thse full range of them. “The system should be able to emulate the entire immune system in two to three years’ time,” Stephan Rupp, the project manager, estimates.
Human immune system in a tube. Medical Science News, July 4, 2007.
NUTRITION By Dulcie Ward, R.D., and Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
PROTEIN AND CARBOHYDRATE
A Diet to Die For
Long-term results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition show that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets increase mortality risk. Researchers assessed the diets of 22,944 healthy Greek adults. Those consuming diets highest in protein and lowest in carbohydrate had a 22 percent greater risk of death compared with those consuming diets highest in carbohydrate and lowest in protein. The study also dealt a blow to the idea of a “healthy Mediterranean diet”: Eighty percent of men and 75 percent of women in this population were overweight or obese.
Trichopoulou A, Psaltopoulou T, Orfanos P, Hsieh C-C, Trichopoulos D. Low-carbohydrate-high-protein diet and long-term survival in a general population cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61:575-581.
Cured Meat Impairs Lung Function
A cross-sectional study of 7,352 Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey participants has linked cured meat consumption with decreased lung function and increased odds of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Analysis showed that every extra serving of cured meat per month came with a 2 percent increase in the risk for COPD. Cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, ham, and luncheon meats, are high in nitrites, an added preservative that produces damaging reactive nitrogen species.
Jiang R, Paik DC, Hankinson JL, Barr RG. Cured meat consumption, lung function, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among United States adults. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2007;175:798-804.
Hormone Replacement Therapy Linked to Breast Cancer—Again
A new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute confirms the relationship between breast cancer rates and hormone therapy. Kaiser Permanente Researchers analyzed data from 7,386 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and treated at Kaiser Permanente Northwest from 1980 through 2006. Results showed that a sharp decrease in breast cancer rates of 18 percent from 2003 to 2004 corresponded with a 75 percent drop in hormone therapy use. This pattern was particularly evident among women over age 45 and with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers, a type of breast cancer sensitive to hormones.
Glass AG, Lacey JV, Carreon D, Hoover RN. Breast cancer incidence, 1980-2006: combined roles of menopausal hormone therapy, screening mammography, and estrogen receptor status. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007;99:1152-1161.
Western Diets Spreading Breast Cancer to Asia
A new study finds that a Western diet rich in meat, dairy products, and sweets is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. Researchers compared the dietary habits of 1,446 women from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study with a control group of 1,549 women from urban Shanghai. Postmenopausal women following a “meat-sweet” dietary pattern, high in meat, fish, candy, dessert, white bread, and milk, had a 30 percent greater risk for growth of estrogen receptor-positive tumors.
Cui X, Dai Q, Tseng M, Shu X, et al. Dietary patterns and breast cancer risk in the Shanghai breast cancer study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16(7):1443-1448.