Animal Testing

The following text is from excerpts of the ScrippsWatch.com website, which is no longer available online. Some of the information is outdated, but still remains relevant. Some has been updated. Please inform us if there are any substantial changes to be made.

ScrippsWatch on Animal Testing

It will be difficult to learn certain details about Scripps’ research in Florida. As part of the deal to bring Scripps to Florida, Governor Bush signed a law that gives Scripps an exemption from Florida’s public records laws. A Scripps spokesperson explained, “We need to protect our intellectual property so that we can license it to private companies.”

The Scripps Research Institute is the largest private research institution in the United States, and is a major recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health (Scripps received over $200 million from the NIH in 2004).

According to USDA records, The Scripps Research Institute used 844 animals – rabbits, monkeys, guinea pigs, hamsters and cats – in experiments in 2002 (the most recent year from which information is available). This number does not include thousands of mice and rats in Scripps labs, animals who are not provided even minimal protection under federal regulations. (Scripps does not report its use of mice and rats to the USDA.)

Scripps scientists have conducted risky experiments in xenotransplantation (transfer of organs or tissues from one species to another), and in using toxins such as anthrax and botulism. Scripps scientists have spent millions of dollars addicting animals to nicotine, cocaine, morphine and other drugs. Scripps scientists have also conducted experiments on chimpanzees, research that would not be allowed in much of the world.

Scripps scientists regularly create genetically modified or “transgenic” mice to mimic human diseases (such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s), by inserting or deleting genes, or experimentally transferred genes into mice from another organism. Click here to learn more about genetic engineering.

Current Scripps Research Institute projects in California include a study of the effects of repeated exposure to the drug MDMA (“ecstasy”) in monkeys, research into a vaccine for the Lassa virus, using monkeys, guinea pigs and mice, and a study of how the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) affects memory, learning, and physical performance of rhesus monkeys, in the hopes that it will lead to insights into HIV infected humans.

Animal research by Scripps scientists has already begun in Palm Beach County. Several scientists now working for Scripps in Florida have conducted objectionable animal research. One scientist now working for Scripps in Florida conducted a bizarre study of stress in which pregnant monkeys were “startled” by 115db horn blasts. Another researcher now in Florida infected dozens of monkeys and hundreds of mice with mad cow disease, and observed their suffering for months.


The justification for cruel projects like these is usually a promise of scientific discovery. Scripps has enticed the public with hopes of cures to diseases such as AIDS, cancer and diabetes.

The reality is that creating disease in healthy animals is an unreliable way to study human diseases. Because of biological differences between species, animal research yields results that cannot be safely applied to humans.

Animal rights advocates are not anti-science. We believe animals have the right to not be exploited as experimental subjects, but we are also convinced that animal research harms humans by diverting research dollars that should be going to proven methods of curing disease. An increasing number of doctors and scientists are voicing their opposition to animal research based on scientific reasons.

Innovative non-animal research methods such as human clinical and in vitro (test tube) research, cell and tissue cultures, epidemiology, and genetic research are more effective methods of studying disease and to test the effectiveness and toxicity of drugs.

According to a report obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, in 2004 inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found several serious problems at Scripps’ primate laboratory in La Jolla, California.

Government inspectors found that monkeys used in a study of the drug MDMA, or “Ecstasy,” were fed less than 30% of the food they should have received. The inspectors noted that Scripps researchers ignored the advice of its own veterinarian concerning proper nutrition for monkeys.

One monkey died after receiving more than twice the approved dosage of Ecstasy. Inspectors also found that drugs used in the experiments had expired, and that living conditions for monkeys were inadequate. Scripps was forced to temporarily suspend the research in March 2004.

Unfortunately, research using monkeys to study human drug abuse continues at The Scripps Research Institute.

Michael Taffe is Director of Scripps’ Primate Neurobehavioral Laboratory. Taffe and his colleagues have spent years, and millions of dollars in taxpayer money, using monkeys to study exposure to MDMA and other drugs.

Beginning in the late 1990′s, six male rhesus monkeys were recycled through several different research projects. In one study, monkeys were injected with the drug scopolamine twice per week and then were trained to perform tests of short-term memory and motor coordination. Not surprisingly, Taffe noted that the results of the study were largely “consistent with previous findings.”

A year later, the same monkeys were exposed to high doses of MDMA (twice per day, four days per week). Finally, in 2001, the monkeys were again exposed to high doses of MDMA. The monkeys were killed at the end of this study.

Sadly, Taffe continues to received federal funding to continue his drug research using monkeys.

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Richard Lerner is the former president of The Scripps Research Institute.

Lerner has been using animals in research for decades. He is infamous for a project completed in 1994 that “discovered” a substance in the brains of sleep-deprived cats. In his study, cats were placed on a treadmill for 22 hours, and then fluid was drawn from holes drilled in their skulls. Lerner is also well known for his connections with the tobacco industry, as a researcher, advisor and paid consultant. A Philip Morris executive has referred to Richard Lerner as “a good friend of the company.”

Richard Lerner has had connections with the tobacco industry for decades, as a researcher, advisor and paid consultant dating back to the early 1970s (long after smoking was conclusively linked to lung cancer). In 1974 he accepted tobacco industry funding for a study of the effects of tobacco smoke. Over 1500 mice were killed during the study.

In 1993, Lerner was hired as a consultant by Philip Morris to review the company’s tobacco-related research. Lerner and another Scripps scientist (Gerald Edelman) toured company labs, including Philip Morris’ toxicology lab in Germany, where he observed cruel and pointless smoke inhalation tests on rodents. Following his review, Lerner made recommendations on how Philip Morris could improve “product development” and remain competitive in the marketplace.

In a 2001 e-mail, Charles “Chuck” Wall, Philip Morris Vice President referred to Richard Lerner as “a good friend of the company.”

Over the years, Scripps has received over $2 million in grants from the tobacco industry.

Richard Lerner continues to defend the use of live animals in research, and has dismissed ARFF’s concerns about the welfare of animals in Scripps labs. In November 2005, Lerner responded to an ARFF demonstration by joking that Scripps had decided to start research on “orphans.”


Richard Lerner’s salary and benefits while at Scripps:
Compensation: $815,966.
Benefits: $265,176.
Expense allowance: $52,051.
*Figures from the year ending Sep. 30, 2004.

Corinne Lasmezas is a French neurologist who joined Scripps in Florida in June 2005.

Since the mid-90′s, she has been studying Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow disease”), using dozens of monkeys and hundreds of mice in experiments. In her studies, animals were injected (either intravenously or orally) with brain tissue from infected humans, cows, sheep or other monkeys. The animals were then observed as the disease progressed. After an incubation period, the animals began to show signs of the neurological disease. Lasmezas noted that the animal’s suffering began with behaviors such as nervousness, teeth grinding and poor coordination, but the animals also suffered blindness, paralysis, loss of muscle coordination and seizures. Many animals suffered from the disease for several months before being killed and dissected.

At Scripps, she continues her work using animals in studying CJD and other prion diseases.

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Residents of Palm Beach County have expressed concern about the welfare of animals in laboratories by including the following language in the county’s animal care & control ordinance. The ordinance should be viewed as an expression of community values:

“It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, organization or corporation to conduct scientific experimentation on animals which involves any cruel or inhumane treatment.”

An animal welfare advocate could also be added to Scripps Florida’s Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC). The federal Animal Welfare Act requires that facilities establish an IACUC to “provide representation for general community interests in the proper care and treatment of animals.” The committee’s role is to assess the research facility and to critically evaluate research protocols. The Act stipulates that at least one member of the committee must be unaffiliated with the research facility.
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Another researcher now working for Scripps in Florida is Teresa Reyes.

One of her past research projects was an attempt to determine how monkeys whose mothers experienced stress during pregnancy respond to infection or injury. The bizarrely conceived study involved close to one hundred rhesus monkeys. To study psychological stress, one group of pregnant monkeys was moved from their cages into a dark room, where they were “startled” by 115db horn blasts. This continued for 6 weeks. After the monkeys gave birth, forty-four baby monkeys were then injected with a substance that made them sick, and their recovery was studied.

In a paper published in 2003, Reyes described an experiment in which mice were exposed to extreme physiological (e.g., infection) and emotional stress. To create emotional stress, mice were placed into narrow tubes and left for 30 minutes. The mice were killed shortly after the experiments, and their brains removed.

Predictably, these studies generated only more unanswered questions and a plea for further studies.

In Florida, Reyes is using animals to study appetite and metabolism.

Athina Markou works in the Dept. of Neuropharmacology at Scripps in California.

Markou finds it interesting that people suffering from depression are more likely to smoke, and that people trying to quit smoking often become depressed. Unfortunately, instead of directly addressing human drug abuse, Markou has spent years and millions of dollars addicting hundreds of rats to nicotine, cocaine, morphine and other drugs.

In 2003, Markou published the results of a study of nicotine withdrawal that used 149 rats. Electrodes were screwed into the skulls of rats, and tiny pumps were implanted under the animal’s skin. The pumps released a nicotine solution that resulted in levels in the rats “equivalent to those produced in a human who smokes 30 cigarettes per day.” After the rats became dependent upon nicotine, the pumps were removed and the rats were observed for signs of “withdrawal-like depression.”

Markou and researchers from Novartis are currently collaborating on a project to develop new drugs to treat depression and nicotine addiction. The project, using mice and rats, will test the effects of new drugs by using a number of different tests, including the “Forced Swim Test,” “Tail Suspension” and “Olfactory Bulbectomy.”

In a 1999 study, Markou implanted catheters into the jugular vein of male rats. Cocaine was injected intravenously; the rats were also trained to receive cocaine by depressing a lever. (photo: rat in Scripps laboratory.)

• The forced swim test is a cruel but common method used by animal researchers to study depression. Animals are placed in water and monitored until they stop attempting to swim or climb out of the tank; this immobility is considered a “despair condition.” (When animals are given antidepressants, they sometimes spend more time swimming.)

• In the tail suspension test, mice or rats are suspended by their tails; when the animal becomes motionless, he or she is considered to be in a depressive-like state.

• The removal of the olfactory bulb (which disturbs an animal’s sense of smell) causes “behavioral abnormalities,” such as hyperactivity, in rats.

Francis Chisari, M.D., is Head of Scripps’ Division of Experimental Pathology.

Dr. Chisari has been at Scripps since the early 1970s, and since at least 1973 he’s been infecting chimpanzees with the hepatitis B and C viruses.

A 2002 study was typical of Dr. Chisari’s research using chimpanzees. Six healthy chimpanzees were infected with hepatitis C. Blood samples and liver biopsies were taken on a weekly basis, and the “progress” of the virus infection was monitored. Several chimpanzees in the study developed chronic infections.

The tragedy is that animal experiments are neither necessary nor useful in studying how hepatitis C infects or affects humans.

Humans and chimpanzees are very similar, yet their few differences are very important. Chimpanzees can be infected with hepatitis C, as they can with other viruses that infect humans, but chimpanzees respond to the virus differently than humans. (“Hepatitis C and Chimpanzees,” report by Americans For Medical Advancement.)

In the development of vaccines, the use of chimpanzees and other animals has often led to misleading conclusions. Most of the approximately 1,300 chimps in U.S. labs were bred in the 1980s to be used in AIDS research. Millions of dollars was spent in the hopes of developing an AIDS vaccine before researchers concluded that chimpanzees are of little value in the search for a cure (while chimps can be infected with HIV, the virus rarely makes them ill). Sadly, the search for a hepatitis C vaccine has long languished because research has focused on chimpanzees and other animals.

The United States is one of the few remaining countries to use chimpanzees in research. Many countries around the world, including Great Britain, New Zealand, Sweden, and The Netherlands, have prohibited research on great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans). (Ending Biomedical Research on Nonhuman Apes,” statement by the Humane Society of the United States.)

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“How should we relate to beings who look into mirrors and see themselves as individuals, who mourn companions and may die of grief, who have a consciousness of ‘self?’ Don’t they deserve to be treated with the same sort of consideration we accord to other highly sensitive beings: ourselves?”
-Dr. Jane Goodall
Opposition to the use of great apes in invasive research is widespread, even in the scientific community. The United States is one of the few remaining countries in the world where chimpanzees are used in biomedical research.
 

“Debbie” suffered for years in laboratories. She is now living at Save The Chimps, a sanctuary in Florida for chimpanzees rescued from the laboratory.

Chimpanzees are an endangered species, and our closest genetic relatives. Chimpanzee intelligence, self-awareness, social behavior and emotions are well understood. Unfortunately, The Scripps Research Institute continues to use these complex animals in experiments.


6 thoughts on “Animal Testing

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