The Physicians Committee

ALS Association: Put the Animal Experiments on Ice

  August 21, 2014    

The “ice bucket challenge” has gone viral. Participants either dump ice water on their heads or donate to charity—or both. How it started is not exactly clear, but this year, the main beneficiary has been ALS research.

Unfortunately, donors may not be aware that a great deal of ALS research funding is being spent on attempts to create animals with genetic mutations that produce symptoms that mimic ALS.  Animal experiments like these are not just bad for animals. They have not resulted in effective treatments. Part of the reason may be that many of the mutations targeted by researchers only account for 5-10 percent of all ALS cases. The failure of translation of results from animal experiments to human patients has been a huge source of frustration.  The result is a waste of time, resources, and money.

And it’s the patients who pay the toll: Ninety percent of drugs that appear useful in animals do not work—or prove unsafe—when tested in people. And half the drugs that are approved are later withdrawn or relabeled for adverse effects not detected by animal tests.

But there is a better way. There are exciting advances in human-relevant medical research that are giving scientists insight into the etiology, prevention and treatment of disease. In ALS research, for example, scientists are now studying motor neuron cells derived from the skin cells of patients with the disease. This technique has led to the discovery of how certain genetic mutations interfere with the ability of motor neurons to function normally—an effect never observed in mouse models of ALS.

Focusing research dollars on new technologies like these—that are directly relevant to human patients—will pave the way to gaining a better understanding of how ALS and other diseases occur, and will hopefully lead to effective treatments.

So if you would like to participate in an ice bucket challenge, please direct your donations to a charity that focuses on relevant and progressive nonanimal research methods.

Compassionate Care is one organization that provides a variety of resources for those affected by ALS and their families—and Compassionate Care does not fund research on animals.

Let’s put animal experiments on ice and support only ethical, effective research.



How do we know who to donate to that is working on non animal methods? These scientists you mention here,where are they and how do we support them and getting that info out to the organization's that still use animal tests?

If you look at the website to which ever orginization it is, it normally says if if they test on animals. ALS has a research part of their website and it says right on there that they test on animals. Another way I have found out is by emailing them directly.

Yet another example of worthless mouse research, When will they learn that animal research is of no value. They can joke about it, but while they do 10's of thousands of human beings are rotting away from ALS because funds marked for research are wasted on mouse studies. It is no joke. Congress should pay attention to the fact that vivisectors THEMSELVES laugh at their research. If they laugh, what should we do? We shouldn't laugh, for it's no laughing matter. We should INSIST that ALF sufferers have a chance at recovery were meaningful research performed. Vivisectors waste our money, waste our lives, waste animals' lives, then laugh at it all. What a disgrace!!!!

What is the most effective way we can band together to change the practices of the ALS research group that still conducts animal testing?

I know this might not be very well received, but as someone that's worked in the drug discovery industry for (eesh) more than 20 years now, I can assure you of two things: a) no one takes animal models lightly and b) nearly every single cure or treatment that has come about in any disease is because there is an animal model for aspects of that disease.

Often there are are several models that need to be developed because as Barnard makes clear, in many cases rodent models are limited in how well they match the human indication. No one knows this more than drug researchers. We're frustrated all the time by disease states (usually neurological, endocrine diseases tend to match up better) that are poorly predicted by animal models.

I will say this though. I would never ever put a compound into a human clinical trial that had not been thoroughly vetted in animal studies for both efficacy and safety -- to do so would be the most profoundly unethical action I think I could commit.

Well, I've received an ice bucket challenge. I'd love to use the opportunity to spread the word about non-animal research that needs funding, but I don't know of any. A web search has come up dry. Please give us some leads!

The article mentions

The article mentions Compassionate Care, an organization that donates directly to families & individuals dealing with ALS. Their website is, if you are interested.

That's great, but I was asking about non-animal RESEARCH. Anyway, the ice bucket viral challenge seems to have run its course, so the opportunity to offer alternatives has pretty much passed.

Great idea!!

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