Editor's Note: NeuroSpring's senior scientist sent a response to this letter. They appear together in the Dec. 6 print edition of the Register.
We were deeply concerned to read that an Emeryville-based company called NeuroSpring is encouraging high school students to conduct experimental brain surgeries on live rats ("Teens Tackle Medical Research," Nov. 17).
In addition to the obvious animal welfare concerns, the students enrolled in NeuroSpring's program are being ill served, because experiments on animals represent antiquated test methods that are out of step with today's science.
Napa teenagers are helping do brain research on rats at a local nonprofit.
While we applaud these future neuroscientists and neurologists for trying to gain as much experience as possible, they'd be better advised to obtain training using cutting-edge, non-animal research tools. By learning human-relevant research approaches, these future scientists and physicians would gain meaningful insights into ways of addressing neurological disease in humans.
Experimenters at NeuroSpring artificially induce strokes and seizures in dogs, pigs, and rats. The animals endure unimaginable pain and fear as experimenters shove tubes down their throats, cut open their skulls, puncture their blood vessels, and deliberately block their arteries. Many of these animals are then killed and dissected.
And for what? Absolutely nothing.
Animal experiments overwhelmingly fail to lead to safe and effective new treatments for humans. Why? Because modeling complex human diseases by inducing oversimplified, artificially created symptoms in animals doesn't provide valuable or accurate information.
Nearly 300 raccoons bred and slated to be sold as pets or for use in experiments swelter in stacked cages as the temperature hits 100 degrees.
Therefore, it isn't surprising that the sorts of induced-stroke experiments being conducted on animals at NeuroSpring have consistently failed to produce human treatments or cures. According to a recent review article, more than 1,000 stroke treatments had been tested favorably on rats and mice, and of these, more than 100 were then tested in human clinical trials — but none of them improved outcomes for stroke patients.
Worse, individuals still experimenting on animals know their studies are flawed and pointless. But because they have built their careers on experimenting on animals, they don't bother to gain the expertise needed to use more modern, clinically relevant research methods. Human neuroimaging, organs-on-chips, complex cellular models (including 3-dimensional models of the human brain), and computational/mathematical models provide more accurate and more clinically relevant information about the human brain, human diseases, and the safety and efficacy of new treatments.
It's important to know that the most dangerous predator in the water isn't the shark. No, that dubious distinction belongs to humans.
The refusal of animal experimenters to embrace more effective, non-animals methods has already cost billions of dollars and the lives of countless animals and has wasted the precious time of patients waiting for treatments and cures that haven't been developed. Training young scientists to use archaic, cruel, and useless animal "models" at NeuroSpring perpetuates this waste of resources and time and will only result in more suffering for animals and humans.
It is absolutely critical that burgeoning scientists steer clear of a reliance on flawed animal "models" of disease and master the tools that will allow them to understand human disease and develop treatments.
NeuroSpring needs to stop exploiting animals in experiments and stop misleading young scientists into believing that harming and killing animals will somehow help humans. It won't.
Katherine V. Roe, Research Associate
Emily R. Trunnell, Research Associate and IACUC Liaison
Laboratory Investigations Department
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
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