Thursday, April 13, 2017

Carbone--The Utility of Basic Animal Research

Questions for today
  1. Is Engel right about the uselessness of animal research?
  2. Is he right that animal research can be replaced by computer models, in vitro research using human tissue, stem cell research, etc.?
  3. If animal research is useful (contrary to what Engel claims), is it ethical?  
Larry Carbone (lab vet at UCSF)
  1. Veterinarians extrapolate from one species to another all the time....successfully
  2. Evolutionary biology supports extrapolation
  3. Carbone is only addressing utility, not morality
  4. Biomedical research is probabilistic--doesn't provide certainty
  5. What we already know about different species helps researchers choose the best animal model
  6. When there are failures of extrapolation, animal researchers study them and learn from them
  7. There are also failures of extrapolation from other types of research--in vitro, computer models, epidemiology, using human volunteers, etc.
Example of extrapolation



Courtine et al., "Can experiments in nonhuman primates expedite the translation of treatments for spinal cord injury in humans?"




NYT article
More video about Gregoire Courtine's lab

Suppose it's useful.  Is it also ethical?

  1. Regan: no
  2. Donaldson & Kymlicka: no
  3. Singer: maybe 
  4. Gruen: unclear
  5. Carruthers, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant: yes
  6. What do you think?
IF animal research can be useful and can be ethical, should it be more tightly regulated?

(1) Balance criterion (my chapter plus other authors):  harm to animals should be "necessary" in the sense that (A) harm to animals is in balance with desired benefit to humans, and (B) no way to achieve same benefit with less harm.
  • cosmetic research
  • Harry Harlow's research
  • Jonas Salk's research
  • Gregoire Courtine's research using rats, using monkeys
(2) Animal Welfare Act (US):  harm to animals should be "necessary" in a weaker sense than above.  (A) Any benefit to humans is worth pursuing through animal research (no demand for balance), but (B) researchers should impose no more harm than necessary to achieve that benefit, whatever it is.  Enforced through regulation, local animal care committees, inspections.

  • cosmetic research
  • Harry Harlow's research
  • Jonas Salk's research
  • Gregoire Courtine's research using rats, using monkeys

(3) European approach, differences:  Balance criterion (see #39, here).  Committees making the judgments are national and non-local (see #39 and #48).  No animal testing for cosmetic purposes; no sales of cosmetics tested on animals (see here).

  • cosmetic research
  • Harry Harlow's research
  • Jonas Salk's research
  • Gregoire Courtine's research using rats, using monkeys

P. S. Trump administration has weakened AWA with black-out of AWA inspection reports.




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