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RESEARCH ETHICS By Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H., and Nancy Beck, Ph.D.
Model Dog Trains Veterinary Surgeons and Students
A simulated dog named FRED, or Flexible and Rigid Endoscopic Training Device, is training veterinary students and veterinarians to perform high-tech surgeries and could save the lives of dogs currently used in training.
Created by University of Tennessee professor Jacqueline Whittemore, Ph.D., D.V.M., and former student Katy Kottkamp, D.V.M., FRED allows veterinarians and students to practice stomach endoscopy surgeries. Endoscopy uses an instrument to examine the interior of an organ or cavity of the body. Students of veterinary endoscopy are currently trained using live dogs, who are often killed afterward.
Dr. Whittemore and the University of Tennessee received a provisional patent for FRED in late 2009, and Dr. Whittemore plans to build models to distribute to other veterinary schools. Future models will offer the opportunity to practice bronchoscopy, feeding tube placement, laparoscopy, and urinary surgery.
Research Program on Track to Reduce Animal Testing
A federal government research effort could be the beginning of the end of toxicity testing using animals. The ToxCast program aims to develop a suite of hundreds of cell-based tests to predict how chemicals might affect human health.
The Environmental Protection Agency has published the results of the first phase of the project, which tested a set of more than 300 pesticide chemicals. Researchers found strong correlations between existing data on chemical effects and the results of cell-based assays. This is the first step toward providing the scientific support needed to persuade regulatory agencies to use nonanimal testing batteries. The next phase of the program will expand to several thousand chemicals, including pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals.
This approach could completely replace animal-based toxicity testing. Cell-based and other nonanimal testing methods allow many more chemicals to be tested at once. The results are more relevant to humans since human cells and tissues are used, and much more information can be obtained on how each chemical—and even mixtures of chemicals—might interact with human biology.
The cell-based tests are designed to capture a chemical signature that can help regulators decide which human organ systems a chemical might affect. The signatures also allow regulators to categorize chemicals with similar effects. Scientists can use computer modeling to translate the results from cellular tests to humans.
The ToxCast program has been in progress since 2007, and represents one step toward implementing the 2007 National Research Council report Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy.
NUTRITION By Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., and Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.
Restaurant Burgers and Fried Chicken Increase Diabetes Risk
Hamburgers and fried chicken may significantly increase type 2 diabetes risk, according to a recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that African-American women who ate two or more restaurant hamburgers per week were 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while two or more fried chicken meals led to a 68 percent increase in diabetes risk. The research followed more than 44,000 participants who were originally diabetes-free and were part of the Black Women’s Health Study.
Krishnan S, Coogan PF, Boggs, DA, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR. Consumption of restaurant foods and incidence of type 2 diabetes in African-American women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91:465-471.
Animal Protein Linked to Diabetes
Diabetes risk increases with higher intake of total protein and animal protein, according to a recent study in Diabetes Care. Researchers analyzed the diets of 38,094 Dutch participants from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study and found that for every 5 percent of calories consumed from protein instead of carbohydrate or fat, the risk of developing diabetes increased 30 percent. Increased animal protein intake also coincided with increased body mass index, waist circumference, and blood pressure. Vegetable protein intake was not associated with diabetes risk.
Sluijs I, Beulens JWJ, Van Der A DL, Spijkerman AMW, Grobbee DE, Van Der Shouw YT. Dietary intake of total, animal, and vegetable protein and risk of type 2 diabetes in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-NL study. Diabetes Care. 2010; 33:43-48.
E. Coli from Chicken Causes Urinary Tract Infections
Bacteria from chicken products may be a major cause of urinary tract infections, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Researchers examined urine samples from women who had urinary tract infections and matched E. coli in the samples to E. coli from contaminated foods. They found that most of the E. coli was ingested through retail meat products (61 percent of which were chicken products) and ready-to-eat products (73 percent of which were meat products). The authors concluded that chicken was the main source of urinary tract infection-causing E. coli. Researchers also warned that animal-product sources of E. coli may be drug-resistant, which can require more costly and complicated treatments.
Vincent C, Boerlin P, Daignault D, et al. Food reservoir for Escherichia coli causing urinary tract infections. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010;16:88-95.
Cutting Out Meat Improves Mood
Avoiding meat improves mood, according to a report presented at a recent American Public Health Association conference. Researchers at Arizona State University divided 39 participants into three diet groups: One group was asked to have no meat or eggs; a second was asked to have fish three to four times per week, but no other meat; and a third made no diet changes. The vegetarian group experienced mood improvements in both tension and confusion categories, while the meat-eating participants and fish eaters showed no mood improvements.
Beezhold BL, Johnston CS, Daigle DR. Restriction of flesh foods in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Poster presented at: American Public Health Association’s 137th Annual Meeting and Exposition; November 9, 2009: Philadelphia, PA.