The laboratory animal model – claiming to be predictive for humans – is a deeply flawed and antiquated system that was first introduced between 1847 and 1878; moreover it is one that has also given rise to a massive financial infrastructure upon which very many research centres, universities and scientists now rely.
We will all be aware that there have been times when industry has supported dangerous or environmentally damaging practices, such as smoking and the erosion of the ozone layer. Respected books have documented the rise of such industry practices, which attach more importance to profit than developing scientific knowledge. One such book is Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion by Daniel Greenberg, reviewed here by Steven Shapin: “Like many scientists, he (Greenberg) is fiercely critical of many aspects of current financial, political and ethical arrangements bearing on the conduct of American science, arrangements which, if unchecked, have the capacity to undermine the integrity and authority of scientific knowledge”. Also recommended are the books Trust Us! We’re Experts and Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, both by Rampton and Stauber. The scientific value of using animals to predict human response to drugs and disease has in fact never existed. However, the massive financial system – creating its vested interest which has gown up around this false, antiquated system – is key to understanding why this practice persists, and what it will realistically take to dismantle. For more on this please click here.
Senior scientists involved in medical research are speaking out about this financial aspect and the pressure placed on them to blur the distinction between “basic” science research – that does not make any claim to be relevant for humans – and “applied” research that is funded on the premise that it will lead to cures for human disease i.e will lead to “clinical translation”. Senior investigator and Director of Research of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Dr Jim Woodgett comments on this, following an article in Nature:
When we publish our studies in mouse models, we are encouraged to extrapolate to human relevance. This is almost a requirement of some funding agencies and certainly a pressure from the press in reporting research progress. When will this enter the clinic? The problem is an obvious one. If the scientific (most notably, biomedical community) does not take ownership of the problem, then we will be held to account. If we break the “contract” with the funders (a.k.a. tax payers), we will lose not only credibility but also funding. Dr Woodgett concludes his comment with the following: Building only on solid foundations was a principle understood by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians yet we are building castles on the equivalent of swampland. No wonder clinical translation fails so often.
Read More About the Money that Maintains Experiments on Animals here
Journalism and Obscuring the Scientific Truth: Read More