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RESEARCH ETHICS By Kristie Sullivan, M.P.H.
Chemical Giant Develops Nonanimal Test
The global chemical company BASF recently teamed up with Promega, a company that provides scientific support to the chemical industry, to develop an animal-test alternative that can reliably detect the allergenic potential of chemicals. In the test, the reaction of human skin cells to allergenic substances can be easily viewed with a fluorescent signal in a test tube.
The new testing method, which was extensively tested at BASF, was submitted to the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods, which will determine whether it can be recognized as a standard method for toxicological studies in Europe.
UK/Norwegian Collaboration Will Develop In Vitro Skin Test
Epistem, a U.K. biotechnology company, and ScandiDerma, a Norwegian company which develops dermatological ingredients, are developing a new in vitro human skin model to test for inflammatory responses from cosmetics.
Korean Cosmetics Company Ends Animal Testing
Korean cosmetics company Amore Pacific announced in March that it will end partnerships with manufacturers that supply animal-tested ingredients for its products. Amore Pacific stopped testing its final products on animals in 2008.
NONANIMAL RESEARCH METHODS
Spinal Cord Injury Researchers Move Toward Reducing Live Animal Use
Researchers are beginning to move away from using live animals for spinal cord injury tests, which typically involve severing nerve fibers in live animals, often by breaking their backs with small weights. The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research recently recognized researchers from the University of Glasgow for developing an in vitro method that uses stem cells from rats. This drastically reduces the number of live rats used in these experiments.
The process involves creating cell cultures in petri dishes that are similar to a piece of human central nervous system tissue. The researchers then cut across the nerves using a scalpel blade to make an area that looks like a lesion that is similar to injuries seen after spinal cord injury is induced in experiments using animals.
The Physicians Committee continues to work with spinal cord injury researchers to help them completely transition to nonanimal methods.
A 2008 PCRM study titled “Animal Models in Spinal Cord Injury: A Review,” which was published in the journal Reviews in the Neurosciences, explored the reasons why animal experiments in spinal cord injury do not accurately predict human outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Miami are collaborating on the Human Spinal Cord Injury Model Project, which uses imaging techniques, post-mortem analysis, and nerve conduction methods to understand human spinal cords. Other directions involve computer modeling, in vitro research, and study of human cadavers.
NUTRITION by Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
Researchers Discover Another Way Meat Causes Heart Disease
Artery-clogging compounds tend to form in the intestinal tracts of people who eat meat and then pass into their bloodstreams, increasing the risk of heart disease, according to a study from the Cleveland Clinic. Researchers followed 2,595 heart patients and categorized them as omnivores, vegetarians, or vegans, and found that those who consumed the most carnitine, present in animal products, increased their risk for heart disease by producing more artery-clogging metabolites.
Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al. Intestinal microbiota metabolism of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med. Published online April 7, 2013.
Component of Animal Products Increases Risk of Heart Disease
A byproduct of dietary choline, a component abundantly present in animal products, leads to greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and death, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers followed 4,007 participants and found that those who had the highest levels of these byproducts were 2.5 times as likely to suffer from an adverse cardiovascular event, compared with those who had the lowest levels. The authors point out that a vegetarian or high-fiber diet can reduce choline intake and modulate the risk for heart disease.
Tang WHW, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al. Intestinal microbial metabolism of phosphatidylcholine and cardiovascular risk. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:1575-1584.
Eggs Boost Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
Eggs increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to a meta-analysis published in Atherosclerosis. Researchers reviewed 14 studies and found that those who consumed the most eggs had a 19 and 68 percent increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, respectively, compared with those who ate the fewest eggs. For those who already had diabetes, the risk for developing heart disease from eating the most eggs jumped by 83 percent.
Li Y, Zhou C, Zhou X, Li L. Egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes: A meta-analysis. Atherosclerosis. Published ahead of print April 17, 2013.
High-Fat Dairy Intake Linked to Mortality
Women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products were more likely to die during a 12-year follow-up, compared with those who consumed the least, according to a new study published by the National Cancer Institute. Researchers followed 1,893 women who had previously been treated for early-stage breast cancer as part of the Life After Cancer Epidemiology Study. They found that the participants who consumed one or more servings of high-fat dairy products per day, compared with none to less than half a serving, were at a 64 percent increased risk for dying and 44 percent increased risk for dying from breast cancer.
Kroenke CH, Kwan ML, Sweeney C, Castillo A, Caan BJ. High- and low-fat dairy intake, recurrence, and mortatlity after breast cancer diagnosis. J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online March 14, 2013.