Breaking the species barrier

An animal specie can be the unwilling host for a virus or other pathogen. It then serves as a reservoir from which the virus can expand, survive and thrive. When working with the World Animal Health Organization, also known as the OIE a Paris based IGO, I actually learned a lot about this subject. The fact that there are such diseases as the West Nile Virus, Avian influenza, foot and mouth disease or the Henza virus for example that have the capacity to infect humans, is a cause of great   concern. This happens when the disease breaks or jumps the species barrier. Rabies is a typical example.

Source American Society for Microbiology http://mmbr.asm.org/content/72/3/457/F5.expansion.html
We just need to think of the H5N1 pandemic to realize their damaging potential to humans, the economy and therefore our societies. Some food borne pathogens such as E.coli or Campylobacter Jejuni, are carried by poultry and livestock . These biological agents or pathogens can also affect public confidence in the food supply. An international network of disease outbreak surveillance is needed to detect outbreaks early on and limit their extent. This also underlines the need for well stocked vaccine banks. It is essential that the behavior and ecology of organisms that serve as vectors and reservoirs be well studied and understood. Obviously if one were to disallow animal research such defensive or safeguarding systems would become useless and our level of risk increased accordingly.
See this article about the Hendra virus found in bats.

For certain diseases such as malaria for example the host specie can be both human or animal (apes) and the disease transmission vector is the mosquito. A good site about malaria , its origins, treatments etc is found here.
The WHO publishes reported malaria cases on a per country basis here. The reduction of the disease is part of the UN millennium development goals (#6C).

Source US CDC

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports WHO estimates of mortality ranging from 708,000 - 1,003,000 deaths for 2008. Current treatments are derived from plant species according to the CDC site. Take a look here for the malaria's parasite life cycle.

The micro organism responsible is called Plasmodium and there exist over a hundred species of them, four of which are known to infect humans (Source USCDC visited 2101-05-31).
A limiting factor for the spread of the disease appears to be cold temperatures (below 20 deg. C) as it prevents the completion of the anopheles mosquito's growth cycle.

So beware of global warming, for over the coming years the boundaries of the disease may spread well beyond its current areas of occurrence. Genetic mutations and viral recombination too make it possible to break the species barrier. One more reason to keep a close eye on what is happening, via animal research, with the evolution of these micro organisms and to get a vaccine ready for a potential outbreak. Aren't we all worth it?


Different Perspectives, different goals!

Incidents do happen, no doubt about that. An Air China flight got delayed at JFK airport over the weekend because a non human primate escaped from its container. The news rapidly circulated over the internet and was reported by the New York post amongst others. Air China does not take these things lightly and I am sure a thorough audited investigation will follow this occasional and unfortunate incident. Be assured that No one was hurt as a result of the incident and all made it safely to their final destination.

The BUAV quickly put together a renewed campaign to target Air China, as a result of this incident and to call for an end to monkey shipments on this carrier.  Emails and letters to Air China are part of the campaign tactics.
I can't comment as to the causes of the escape but from experience it often comes down to container construction and by the interference of the animal itself.

In the meantime according to a Biospectrum article, Chinese scientists led by Dr Sidong Xiong of Fudang university, report having developed a novel TB- DNA vaccine in an HIV-1 p24 protein backbone that protects against mycobacterium tuberculosis and simultaneously elicists robust humoral and cellular responses to HIV.  The vaccine was tested in mice.
It remains to be seen how the vaccine behaves in clinical trials. The article goes on to point out that there are an estimated but nevertheless staggering 14 million people co-infected by both diseases (WHO data). Read the abstract here. Or download the ASM pdf article here.

Putting things in perspective my post should have started with the TB HIV vaccine story because it is of far more significance than the buav reaction to a monkey that escaped confinement. I just find it ironic that the latter makes headline news, creates a big stir and eventually may lead a carrier to stop transporting laboratory animals. Different perspectives and different goals? It sounds like a dialogue between deaf people. How could it be any different when stopping any and all animal use is the objective? These people sure know how to build a fire.

Despite the above noise produced by a single animal escape, I for one have great faith in alternatives for they too hold great promises. We can all learn from animals. Think of the tensile strength of spider produced wire, the adhesive power of the gecko or other insects that are able to walk upside down. A new era is upon us that will unleash the power of biotechnology not only in the medical field but in many different domains.  Before we start inoculating though let's ensure new and alternative means of saving or improving lives are appropriately tested, it just makes so much sense! Don't you think so? And do let carriers, such as Air China, know you support them for together our voices can make a difference since we share a common perspective and a common goal of advancing medical research and improving lives.


Our way or the dust mite's way?

Small things hold great power. Microbiologists will tell you so. So will those that suffer from allergies.
Think of asthma for example. Having non obstructed airways or perhaps I should say non inflamed or non irritated airways, is a blessing. Think of the amount of air you breath day in day out. Now think of being somehow deprived of, or obstructed from, this regular supply. An affected adult can express discomfort and describe what is happening. Infants and very young children can't. They therefore rely on us, adults, to take care of their well being. Here is an article that gives you an idea of the amount of air needed during certain activities. When you are affected by asthma you get to know all about bronchodilators, inhalers and nebulizers. You learn about short term relief and long term control. For some, asthma symptoms will be less present in life because of physiological changes or because of a change in your living environment ( a move for example). The disease however remains.  To find out more about asthma click here.  As parents you worry about the long term effects of medication and balancing act of the immediate and long term well being of your child.

Things do get worse during night time when most of us enjoy a good night of sleep. Our own bedrooms can be infected by small (less than a third of a millimeter) arthropods commonly called house dust mites. These little creatures are the source of allergy and asthma for many of us. In fact in the US it is estimated that a 20 million people are affected according to the Asthma and Allergy foundation of America. Project this number over worldwide population and you will agree with me that this is a serious disease. To view a video about asthma and how animal research contributed click here.

In come a team of researchers,
Department of Physiology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA
Correspondence: Michael R Van Scott, Department of Physiology, The Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, 6N98 Brody Building, Greenville, NC 27834, USA,
Email vanscottmi@ecu.edu   
whom produce the following study using, you guessed it once again non human primates. It is called:
Their conclusions speak for themselves:
The results provide compelling evidence that daytime exposure to aeroallergen in allergic NHP is associated with an increased incidence of nocturnal disturbances in breathing. Taken together, the results indicate that symptoms of nocturnal asthma can be induced in NHP, providing a model for elucidating the mechanisms underlying circadian manifestation of asthma symptoms.
So as we all gently move on with science and our planet becomes more and more populated some difficult choices will be ours to make. Shall we leave the choice of using animals as open as possible or do we need to restrict it? Are we prepared to tackle the challenges ahead of us and are we well equipped to do so? Is it in the end the dust mite that will prevail, for I see no reason why this tiny animal isn't a sentient being, or is it us?  You may disagree with my analogy but by comparing the extremes it becomes clear that some are being manipulated. Or one could say the mite is hiding the forest.  Small things  hold great power so beware of what you wish for.


Sitting on the fence

In reading my previous posts you may well wonder why I insist so much on the issue of non human primates and their use in animal research when it is a fact that rodents such as rats and mice represent the majority of animals used. Is it because I feel it is being used as a wedge issue? Is it because once the use of monkeys has been prevented other species may follow? Or is it because sitting on the fence is not comfortable and thus one draws conclusions and decide which side of the fence to be on?

Source:understanding animal research 

Perhaps indeed there is some of that but in my opinion there just is no fence. There is research because there are questions. There are questions because there is illness, disease, disorder, pain and death. There are so many of us that are working day in day out to find the answers we are looking for. These very answers benefit both humans and animals. We can not afford to let these people down, nor can we afford as a society to let those that are affected down. No one owns compassion, ethics or morals but they are being used to create the fence. All have to sit on the fence, it helps for making contributions.

It is a blessing that most of us look upon rats and mice with disgust, perhaps because of their past plague spreading reputation. They sure contribute to medical advancement now and there are plenty of articles that show how lives have been saved or medical advancement achieved. Take the case of some form of leukemia that had a 70% likelihood of causing mortality in affected children 25 years ago. Now 80 percent of the children have a chance of surviving. These aren't my numbers, nor is it my work.
As usual you can read the information here on the University of British Columbia web site.
Thank you for your commitment, your work and your achievements UBC, we Owe you!
Source: understanding animal research

Now look at demographics. Our societies are getting older, life span expectancy has increased dramatically over the last few centuries. Diseases and quality of life will be different in a few decades from now. Lots of people to nourish, cure or keep healthy! Unexplored territories and certainly different realities from what they are now. I don't know if we can prematurely age rodents to have relevant models as it is done with obese mice but surely we need to look ahead.

Should you live to a hundred years, you'd want this to be in as healthy a condition as possible. Perhaps even without strokes, rheumatism or arthritis. A degenerative disease may call for the need of replacement. Replacement first has to be tested in living species, as has the donor acceptance/rejection mechanism. PS; for paralysis see previous posts.

Could it be that our close relative the monkey holds some of the answers we will be looking for? We may not like it but it helps keeping the options available. Hate to think that we have thrown out the water with the baby or are thinking of it. So do the fallen ones I guess. Just ask those that survived and remember to be pragmatic: there is no fence.



I can't wait for the blog on BrainFacts.org come live in the fall of 2012, a few months down the road. Neuroscience is a fascinating subject. When you think that a tiny little device called a Brain Controlled Interface can be implanted into the brain of a disabled person to let them control a robotic arm just by the power of their mind. How have we gotten there? And here I am using 'we' as representing mankind.

As it is said in this article , please do read it, this is not science fiction THIS IS REALITY! No facebooking or twitting, no these are people that have despite the adversity, the negative press, the complexity of the problems faced, the numerous challenges, created and delivered a way of improving lives of disabled persons. Are they the unsung heroes of a forsaken cause? I hope not!
This medical advancement benefits many human beings that are part of your family, perhaps even yourself or a friend, a relative, a distant face, a person you've seen in a wheelchair, Joe, Jack, Henri, Selena, Ibrahim , Dieter, Cho, Wei, and the list goes on. I could leave this space open for all to fill in their names here, if only they could. I could ask them all to send an email or to sign a petition to lobby government for the continued use of monkeys in research. Maybe I should but I won't, as I said before science moves on. We are not off the hook however for I call for your action and your continued support towards animal research and medical advancement.

You and I, since we know how WE have gotten there, we have a duty of care, of due dilligence. The work has been done. Some lives are improved, others have contributed and yes animals have been sacrificed. Have you ever imagined what life is like without the use of your limbs? Without the joys that our senses bring such as seeing, hearing or smelling? Without the faculty of understanding the very things that go on around you? Without the capacity to grasp emotions because you are incapacitated? Without the capacity of feeling grass under your toes? Without the capacity to express yourself? Today you may be just fine but tomorrow because of an accident or a crippling disease you may no longer enjoy life as you once did. Perhaps one is born that way, incapacitated. Or altzheimer's been waiting for you.

Shall we leave them all by the wayside? How have we gotten there?   Has animal research, using monkeys or other animal species contributed?
Is it cruel to take these monkeys from the wild , fly them to a laboratory and perform the work that needs to be done?   I have answered all of these questions for myself and my answer is unequivocally NO it isn't. Look at the areas neurosciences are involved in and I challenge you to not find a single person around you that will or may have benefited from Neuroscientific research. Or perhaps I am only expressing thoughts incapacitated persons can't?   


Airlines have a thick skin

The fuselage of an aircraft is that part wherein eventually some of us will sit or as it applies to animals, will be carried. It is usually made of aluminium to keep operating weight , the related fuel consumption and carbon footprint down to commercially exploitable levels. It is an assembly of several sections that are welded together. As you can see from the pics below.
Boeing B747-8 Forward Fuselage Source: Aviation news.eu
Whilst most of us do enjoy a flight to our  favoured holiday resort, some are out there telling the airlines what to do or what not to do. Coming from an aviation background that is a biased opinion, admittedly. We do live in a democratic society and criticism as well as free speech is a generally admitted right. No problem there whatsoever. Now do take a look at this petition by the buav.  You'd have to agree with me that airlines must have a thick skin to resist these ongoing petitions. This one in particular has reached the fifty six thousand mark and is aiming at seventy five thousand. The airlines being petitioned are Air France, Vietnam Airlines, Philippine airlines, Continental Airlines (now UA).

Airbus A350 aft fuselage source aviation brief.com

Scenario: I should be the lucky manager to whom this petition is addressed, for I would have to explain to upper management why we are being targeted and what it is we should do moving forward.  Keeping in mind of course that eventually these very 56000 potential or existing customers may decide not to use our services any longer. I am known to keep my temper. The same can not be said of my VP, let stand my CEO.

The petition updates tab provides readers with information on other campaigns and those airlines and other transporters that have decided to stop carrying primates.  Cruel cargo ? I don't think so. It would be if we all keep silent though. It is the very reason why I created this blog for research and medical advancement matters to all of us. Our communities must work together towards a commercially viable alternative and I am not talking about alternative use animals. Let's talk about animal research and saving lives!

Richard Din

In life we all expect death to take away loved ones, friends and family. Life, as they say, goes on. As it has and always will. But we expect this to happen after a full and long life. It ain't necessarily so.
A friend of mine once told me about his sister who died unexpectedly after a fall. Her organs were donated and today a few other lives were saved or improved as a result of this action. She was in her early forties if I remember correctly.

In California at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs medical Center, Richard Din was a researcher involved in developing a vaccine against a meningitis strain. The strain was vaccine resistant and it somehow ended up in his blood.  He became ill on a Friday, a few hours upon leaving work.  He died of a heart attack the next day Saturday at 2pm, at the age of 25. You can read the full story here.

Richard Din was a researcher and died after handling a rare bacteria strain. He too gave his life to research. He was trying to find a cure that would have helped many of us. It is far too easy to forget about the thousands of brave men and women that are involved in the saving of lives through research and through giving health care. Of course we don't know most of them but on occasions like this it is only normal to pay tribute and if you have the means to contribute in one way or another to a cause that seeks to help, assist or builds upon finding cures for the benefit of mankind, please do so. It doesn't have to be money, it can also be some of your time as a volunteer. My contribution is very small, I only write about others that contribute one way or another to improving our lives, today or tomorrow. I also talk to my relatives and friends about the need for research and how it is negatively impacted by animal rights extremists. Sometimes one can cause great harm with all the best of intentions.

So THANK YOU Richard, for your hard work, your time and energy. Thank you for your dedication and your passion. May your intent and your contribution not be forgotten. It takes brave men and women like you to pave the way and inspire us all. I may not have known you but I sure will remember you!
Talking of improving lives as Richard did, I was reading a post by Dario Ringach on speaking of research about paralysis. The post called not difficult to grasp makes a terrific link between improving lives for paralyzed persons through research using monkeys. Make sure to watch the video. I share his enthusiasm about brain machine interface potential. We all however need to make sure monkeys remain available for such critical research. Do not let their supply chain come into harms way.

Advancing medical research takes a toll both on animals and on humans. In the end it takes our common will power to make it happen but most importantly it takes people like Richard or Dr Chet Morris and his colleagues to make science move on and to provide us all with the hope towards a cure, a new treatment for our common benefit !



An invitation

Again and again the same falacious tactics are used to lobby airlines to stop transporting non human primates. PETA has such a campaign going on the web. It is called: ask airlines to stop shipping monkeys to be tortured. The call to action is fallacious for it makes a link between airlines and torture. It also creates an impression that there is no oversight whatsoever as to what is happening in a laboratory, in aviation and the importations of animals. There also isn't a word about regulatory authorities and the hard work they do on all the shipments that enter a country (vets, inspectors etc).

Whilst the picture on the web site displays wooden crates, there is no obvious sign of an animal being cramped in them. The message also infers that there are no inspections or other criteria for shipping animals into the US, which is absurd. I can assure you that, often in tandem with government agencies, airlines have been setting international container standards for shipment of animals since 1969 at a time where animal welfare was a notion few had heard of. That is not to say that everything was perfect but certainly nothing was left unattended.

These international airline standards are reviewed on an annual basis and published annually by IATA in the Live Animals Regulations manual. These same container standards are recognized by CITES through a resolution and are applicable for the transportation of CITES listed species. They are also applicable in Europe through EC directive 1 2005. The animal welfare organisations such as the HSUS, WSPCA etc are aware of this CITES resolution as are the signatory countries to the Washington Convention.  Some of them participate in the meetings of the CITES transport working group, as I have done in the past. It doesn't prevent the animal extremist organisations to spread wrong information and lead the general public to action airlines and associate airlines with the suffering of animals.

Asking the airlines to stop transporting monkeys because they are destined to laboratories is like asking airlines to stop transporting passengers because they are involved in a perfectly legal activity that PETA just happens to not like, such as for example farming, fishing, clothing, chemical testing, drug discovery, food and other retail, cosmetics, companionship animals, animal conservation etc. the list is just too long to go on but you get the picture. Guilty by association is the message to their members and the public, what are you going to do about it. Send them a clear message, it is already pre-written for you and all you need to do is to click on "send this message". 

If you are working in an animal use industry or your company caters to them, make sure your voice is heard through your associations and your government representatives. The time for change is now.



Cancer in Memory Donna Summer RIP

None of us wants it and all of us wants it cured. In life there aren't many things we all can agree on.
Cancer I presume is one of them if my first sentence stands. There are many forms of cancer as we all know. I myself am of a fair complexity and I have freckles all over. Obviously shying away from exposure to direct sun is almost a primary reflex. We redheads generally turn red before getting a tan and only after having felt our skin burned first. In time I imagine that toxicologists have helped me and my consorts with easing some of that pain by means of dermatological creams and sunblocks. I am glad these weren't tested on me and that I could just grab my ointment straight from the pharmacy.

Talking of a complex disease, it should be said that there are advances taking place that are worth looking into. Take this article about In Vivo biology. It nicely describes how technology with the assistance of animal research, is helping discovering potential pathways previously not possible.

So yes medical science moves on and on different tracks simultaneously. It doesn't matter whether   they be in vivo, in vitro or computational models (not  an exhaustive methodology enumeration) or all combined. We all benefit from such advancements thanks to such institutions as the National Foundation for Cancer Research and the people working at its Center for Metastasis Research, where the four following questions are the basis of their proposed research studies:
(1) Why do some cancer cells metastasize while others do not?
(2) Why are some patients more susceptible to metastasis than others?
(3) What determines where cancer cells metastasize and their efficiency in
completing the seeding and growth at secondary sites?
(4) What are the signals that tumor cells give to and receive from their surrounding
 At some point in our lives we will be confronted with disease and chances are that Cancer is one of them. All of us will benefit from people like these. Look right here.

If you have taken the time to visit the NFCR pages above you know that the battle involved the discovery or breakthroughs of novel research tools and technologies, biomarkers or tools for identification of genetic phenomena, new drug candidates and cancer therapeutics, discovery of cancer related genes or proteins, clinical trials and much more.

A more complete list of breakthroughs is found here.

In memory of Donna Summer RIP

Now you decide whom you should DONATE some money to ! Just make sure it isn't PETA.


From mother to child

As many of us I am sure, I was confronted with the possibility of unknowingly passing on a disease or disorder via my genes to my children.  Perhaps previously matters were easier in that our knowledge did not reach the level we currently enjoy. Hence a little feeling of tossing the dice so to speak.

From mother to child as I have renamed an article that points to some discoveries that again will help humans, using non human primates as a basis for their research. The link however between the article and the title I have used is not obvious. Should you indeed have the time in speaking of research Dr Shoukrat Mitalipov does an excellent  job in explaining the implications of their research and why a screening procedure should take place later than is currently the case.  Yes, I am talking about the transmisson of specific genetic diseases and the prevention thereof. I am not going to elaborate on the ethical aspects of screening, however as they say prevention is the mother of  all cures.

Most importantly this kind of translational research establishes a clear link between research on animal species and the resulting benefits to humans. We may be far from preventing transmission, however understanding the underlying mechanisms at this level may eventualy translate into ensuring you and I do not end up with children whose lives are unduly diminished or incapacitated. Of course being incapacitated or diminished is also a point of view as a function of whom you ask.

Dangerous also is the capacity to 'choose', 'select' or 'improve'  mankind when there are no strict ethical guidelines one needs to abide by. Refer to Eugenism. We should however not loose out of sight the benefits to mankind that this type of core research brings us. Those that are affected or afflicted as well as their families, often a silent majority, have great hopes that the same research may also lead to cures or if this is not possible yet, to improvements in their quality of life.
This kind of ethical and study oversight does take place in core, clinical research and in pre-clinical work all the way to marketing drugs and beyond. Prevention and monitoring work hand in hand, albeit step by step. Too fast for some too slowly for others and almost always from mother to child.


Perfect cousin continued

I know some of us would rather not be compared with a non human primate, our perfect cousin of ancient ancestry. Researchers or investigators if you prefer, do not stop at this primal consideration. There's more important questions to answer in life that can not be stopped by such futile mindbones.
Take the case of infertility for example. Hang Yin1, Diane M Duffy2 and Roger G Gosden1 ,

1 The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA 23507, USA
2 Department of Physiological Sciences, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA 23507, USA

published a study (2006) comparing maturation of cynomolgus monkey oocytes in vivo and in vitro. Source:
An interesting point about In Vitro Maturation (IVM) and the use of non human primates is in my opinion made here:
Progress with IVM has been hindered by the scarcity of suitable human oocytes for research. A non-human primate model is highly desirable because the physiology of the menstrual cycle and embryology are more comparable to humans than other model species. 
In the final paragraph of the article the following is said by the researchers:
Overall, this study affirms the value of the non-human primate model for optimizing IVM protocols in clinical applications.
Another area where non human primates are used is in the fight against Hepatitis C, or in the fight against cancer and aging but this would be the subject of another post or a series thereof. Did you know that approximately 60% of women that develop ovarian cancer will die of the disease (estimation dates from 2003)? Source here.

As one can note from the above our perfect cousins are helping us in life threatening situations but also in the fight against infertility.
It therefore appears to me that our perfect little cousins contribute for a larger extent to our well being than what might have been our initial impression, as laymen that is!
I will let Joseph Kemnitz illustrate the use of non human primates through the very work he does at the University of Wisconsin and the articles published over the years.


Perfect cousins?

Nicos Logothetis is a director at the Max Planck Institute for biological cybernetics in Germany. He introduces the subject of animal research at his institution. In the last paragraphs the following can be read:
The consequences of a prohibition of animal research for society, medicine and progress are immeasurable. It is certain, however, that it would drastically lower the chances that patients with incurable diseases might witness the development of effective treatment in the foreseeable future. Source: introduction to the topic of animals in research.
The variety of animals used in brain research ranges from insects such as flies to nonhuman primates via invertebrates, fish, birds, mice, rats, pigs, sheep, dogs and cats. However nonhuman primates are used because of the closeness of their functional principals and similarity in structures to those found in humans. This closeness makes them perfect cousins for the many questions research is attempting to answer. Areas of research include behavioral studies, cognition and language, immune systems, aging studies, heart research, xenotransplantation research, toxicology studies and pharmacological research. One can read some of the studies in the Journal of Medical primatology , whereas this site provides further information on the use of primates in research and its history.

Lesser perfect cousins and philogenetically more distant animals are also used in brain research as mentioned above. A nematode by the name of C.elegans is an invertebrate with a very primitive brain but a nervous system that uses neurotransmitters, receptors and signaling pathways close to those found in the human brain.

Image copyright Understanding animal research.org.uk

Another lesser perfect cousin is the Sea hare, which lead MD Erik Kandel to Nobel prize wining research on learning and memory. Even the fruit fly's nervous system contributes to advancing our knowledge of the human nervous system because of striking similarities between both. Zebra fish because of their transparency in early life stages are used in studying developmental neuroscience. Songbirds such as Zebra Finches help scientists understand how children learn language. 
The above information is taken from : www.brainfacts.org

Back to our perfect cousins the nonhuman primates and the scientists at the Max Planck institute with five medical therapies that were developed using animals in research.
Life saving medical treatments and therapies.

Can it therefore be said that animal research is transferable to clinical research? The answer for me is found here!


Making our world a better place through research

If you were to visit the web page of the Tulane National Primate Research Center you would see this (title) statement right at the top. A bit further down one can find the resources the center maintains and more specifically the nonhuman primates required in research. The management of the nonhuman primates is done by the veterinary medicine division. There are nine species in the center which totals to approximatively five thousand nonhuman primates to take care of.  The nonhuman primates are used in research towards finding a vaccine, cure or treatment to diseases such as for example AIDS/HIV, Leukemia or Malaria to name a few.

The above is just one example of a research center using nonhuman primates. Actually as a research model, nonhuman primates are also used in other areas of scientific research. Take a look at this page and follow the links. 

On the other hand some find macaques to be a nuisance and would rather eradicate them from their ecosystems since they are an invasive species.  Take a look at page seven of this report (attached) dated March 14-15, 2012. Here's an excerpt:

Feasibility Study for Macaque Monkey Eradication Project Successfully Complete

With funding from the CEPF, Invasive Species International conducted a feasibility study in Palau in September-October 2011, to assess the feasibility of complete removal of invasive macaque monkeys from Palau, especially the heavily infested island of Anguar. The study concluded that eradication will be possible, but that it will be difficult and expensive.
The study report estimates that it will take 3-4 years to complete the eradication, at a cost of 1.5 to 2 million dollars. Source: here.
So between those that need the resource, those that are challenged when transporting them and those that want to get rid of macaques, a balanced approach is needed. If at all feasible, why not use these macaques for research instead of the proposed eradication? In addition they could also be used for repopulating areas where the species are endemic but deemed vulnerable or endangered. Perhaps my contacts in the zoo and aquarium world are interested in helping out, who knows? That would make the world a better place through research and conservation.



Vaccines and transportation

One can always debate the utility of vaccination. Looking at demographics however it is difficult to deny that human populations across the globe are growing steadily. There are many factors to this growth. One that sticks out in my mind is medical advancement. Large scale vaccination campaigns have contributed to eradicate many infectious diseases. Agricultural advancement is another one, although not the subject of this chronicle.
Take my children for example, from birth on they have been vaccinated on a regular basis, as I have. This build up of immunity against diseases in human populations is a key service to human and animal health and global well being. I for one wouldn't want to loose loved ones to the hands of an infectious disease, when given the choice that is. Neither do you, I am sure. That choice usually is called vaccination.

We just need to look back a few years ago when we were all so worried about the consequences of avian influenza. I happened to be heavily involved at the time (2006), not with finding cures to the disease but with the transportation of  vaccines by air and pandemic preparedness. Refer to this avian flu guidelines cargo june2006 pdf.

When diseases reach the pandemic stage, based on criteria set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), many questions do come to mind for those that carry both passengers and live animals that may or not be vectors in spreading the disease. Not only may carriers carry sick passengers or live animals but their staff too could quickly be exposed to the disease if it has the ability to spread easily. In these cases having an emergency response plan is vital, not only at the state or country level but also at the international level, hence the WHO involvement. Economic operators such as air carriers need to have their own plans as well.

In addition, once a vaccine has been elaborated and manufactured, which in and by itself  are huge tasks, there remains the transportation thereof to roll out an effective vaccination campaign. Vaccines are more difficult to transport than inert substances, because they are more complex biological substances. Often as a result of stability data studies and the need to preserve effectiveness, they will require transportation within given temperature ranges.  Offering an effective temperature controlled environment is achieved by both active or passive means. Some containers used by airlines or shippers, now offer the capacity to maintain contents within temperature ranges . That was not the norm fifteen years ago. Advances in packaging's too make maintaining the temperature controlled environments possible, through better use of insulation, as do phase change materials.

Fundamentally speaking however, nothing of the above would be possible if there weren't research centers available to find the solutions through research. Using animal models that is.  Welcome to the world of bio containment level facilities, viral pathogenesis and vaccine development, molecular mechanisms and reverse genetics. A world where people like Dr Sylvia Van den Hurk work towards promising technologies that are potentially leading to balanced long-lived immune responses benefiting both humans and animals.
Collectively, let us not forget what matters most and what it takes to get there. It is the least we can do to thank those that spend their lives finding cures or delivering them!


Bridging the gap from molecules to mind

Science is wonderful. It truly is. You do need to look at it though, sometimes closely, sometimes from an umbrella perspective. Given the age we live in with the Internet, social media and elaborate educational systems there are plenty of sources to find your 'brainbone' so to speak. Understanding or having the capacity to, is however something different.
Oh, by the way, the words in the title aren't mine, they're from Robert Desimone. Bob if I may call him so, works at the McGovern's institute for brain research at MIT. His message is simple yet so fascinating: understanding how the brain gives rise to the mind. The discipline is called neuroscience and through research it tries to answer the origins of consciousness, what memory is and much more.

After blogging about animal liberation, some of the actions they undertake and their tactics, I felt the need to refocus on animal research and why it matters. I have written about the use of non human primates in research. The following article provides you with work done by researchers from MIT on some research using primates .
The MIT approach however is not centered around one particular technique or species but on choosing whatever system is best suited to answer questions. This is so important to understand for each and every researcher is confronted with this identical question for every subject of investigation (the study).

Now you tell me if we can afford to exclude one species or another from this approach? To me the answer is No, plain and simple. Not until such time as there are cures or treatments towards such diseases or disorders as Autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's , loss of vision, speech, hearing or motion etc. and we understand the underlying disease or disorder mechanisms that affect millions of us.  As it is said on the MIT web site, basic discovery research is the engine that drives new practical applications. To get to the answers may and will take different animal models, behavioral and imaging studies in humans and much more.  It is worth our collective and individual efforts.  Equally important is to understand why this research takes place, how it is done and how you or your family or generations before or after us, benefit from these stepping stones and the milestones reached through research and medical advances.
Should you have a or know someone affected by a disorder or a disease, there probably is no need to convince you. There is however the need to strongly express your support towards all those involved from the laboratory animal technician to the university researcher via our teachers, professors and those that fund research.   Just say 'No' to this alliance of animal rights groups target princeton university and this.    



Nazis and slave traders

Sometimes words aren't enough. It takes animal extremists more to achieve their aims.
Animal liberation - Targets - Victory- Campaigns and Direct Action

Take a look at this:  South Florida Smash HLS Targets

People are named and pictured as targets, their private addresses made public , their company names appear and some are compared as being involved in slavery or called Nazis (John Resuta home demo). You can clearly view from these pages how they pick out pharmaceutical company suppliers, their CRO's or CMO's, transporters and pharmaceutical companies themselves.

Another key aspect in most of these sites is the DONATE button coupled with the use of images. It takes more than words for people to give money. Strong images are used to show that they are serious and mean. At the same time there is also a disclaimer :
The information on this site is not meant to incite, promote or request any illegal action of any kind.
 And the blog roll of like minded extremist groups. Just follow the links :

  • Air Souffrance
  • Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF)
  • Band of Mercy- LA
  • Empty Cages, Full Forests
  • Friends of Animals United (FAUN)
  • National Anti-Vivisection Alliance (NAVA)
  • Negotiation Is Over (NIO)
  • Portland Animal Defense League (PDXADL)
  • Shut Down HLS
  • Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN)
  • Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)  

  •  Aren't they a world apart? No dialogue is needed here. Just make sure your children, your family and friends know what is happening. Antropomorphism and ignorance combined may well create the next or current wave of supporters! Support your bio-medical research associations and let your government know that enough is enough.


    No fly policies

    When it comes to transporting laboratory animals airlines in general have very cold feet. I have posted several links (in previous posts) that point to AR campaigns which specifically target airlines. The end result of these campaigns are predictively always the same: A NO FLY policy is imposed.
    How can airlines positively react to the transportation of laboratory destined animals, when they are flooded by thousands of emails? What should they do when they are being called targets and staff constantly harassed?
    Against fur and petition cargo-cruelty-tell-airlines-to-stop-shipping-primates-for-research/
    and cargo cruelty tell airlines to stop shipping primates for research

    Should all airlines pay and display the 'leaping bunny' logo in order to keep animal rights activists at bay? Will that even suffice when AR groups outright say that they oppose any animal use or until total liberation takes place? Remember airlines are in the business of flying people, animals and other cargo from A to B, safely and securely. 

    It has to be said that despite the claims made by AR groups, very few animals are injured, escape or die in transit. This is not happening out of luck. Airlines train their staff towards the acceptance, packing and handling of live animals. The conditions in which the animals fly are the same as those for passengers, except of course animals are in crates and there is no inflight service for most of them. I said most because for some indeed in-flight attendants are present. Shippers too contribute to the successful movement of animals as they have an intimate knowledge of the species they ship and an adequately sized container is used in accordance with airline regulations. So, No they are not crammed into a container, nor are they exposed to cruel conditions in the belly of an aircraft.
    Yes there will be noise and occasional fumes but the belly hold is heated and air is being circulated. Usually lights are turned off so the animals experience night type conditions in order to keep them calm.This is after all an aircraft/ airport/ warehouse environment and engines expectedly do make noise and release fumes. International Airline regulations for transporting animals -also contains a chapter dedicated to laboratory animals.

    In the end however we all need to realize that transporting animals by air is not what airlines live of. It is a tiny fraction of their revenues. Transportation of monkeys is an even smaller piece, a subset of a subset. And it all has to be done right. None of those involved have an interest in animals that arrive dead, that manage to escape or injure themselves. Airlines do a good job at transporting animals, including those destined for research.

    We do have to take this analysis a bit further. What happens when carriers no longer accept transporting animals? The animals end up in other means of transport or worse are smuggled across borders. In this scenario we all loose, except Animal rights groups. Isn't that the goal anyway?
    Since indeed animal research is crucial, it is equally crucial to speak up and act in favor of carriers and to let this be known to them.  The time for action is now, the choice of having air transport services is yours to make! Together let's keep logistics working for you and the public.


    Animal Alternatives and drug pipeline

    Most recently I stumbled upon an older article in Spiked called: ''In defence of animal experimentation'' by Patrick Hayes. If you wish to read it you can find it here.
    The journalist does make some valid points, especially when it comes to alternatives and concessions made. There is just no way you can make an omelet without braking the eggs. Far too often are we caught in ethical debates when in fact animal use is just inevitable. His concluding paragraph says it all.

    Is that to say that there should be no alternatives to animal use? No, quite the opposite. Finding alternatives is another tool in the life saving toolbox. Stem cell research and computer modeling are tools that contribute. From what I have read however, when it comes to more complex living systems, animal models can't be beaten. One can not afford either, to give up the animal research step in order to go straight into human trails. It is a safety mechanism, a precautionary step rightfully imposed, using two animal species.  Nothing to be apologetic about but to be rather proud of. After all, these are life saving contributions to mankind.  If you do enjoy rants about opinionated activism and its consequences read this article.

    It does become more painful when researchers themselves have to publicly say that enough animal rights activism is enough as was the case in 2009 at UCLA. Letter to the editor Journal of Neurophysiology

    Similar debates have taken place in the UK and now three years later the general public has a better understanding of why animal research is needed. That is not to say that animal activism has stopped. No it has spilled over into continental Europe and Asia and it has tumored into other areas of human activity where animals are used. Such as for example the fur industry, the agricultural industry ( did you know that US horses now have to be slaughtered in Mexico or Canada?) , the companionship industry and the display industry.

    All of this because of increased animal welfare concerns? No, because of 'No Animal Use' activism. Even Zoo's and Aquaria do not find grace in the eyes of animal rights groups, claiming that animals were meant to be born free. Never mind their efforts in wildlife conservation towards re-introduction into the wild. Just think where the debating and activism will lead us if animal sentiency and manlike status are adopted or enshrined into laws?

    The pharmaceutical industry is spending millions of dollars to establish close ties with academic researchers in an effort to get to cutting edge drug discovery and research. We all know about the drug pipeline problems and the coming off patent situation, but if the academic world is prevented from live animal supply and from valid animal models , where does that lead to? BUAV primate cargo cruelty campaign

    and lobbying airlines

    Airlines say no to primate transport
    Certainly not more animal use alternatives. Rather the loss of potential cures or the delay in life saving research and potentially a few million victims because of animal rights. Avian influenza anyone?