MAR 09, 2016 5:32 PM PST

Translational medicine: when is it ethical to use trials on animals?

Dr Frances Henson is a Research Fellow in the Division of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Addensbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, as well as a Senior Lecturer in Equine Surgery, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge Veterinary School.She works with scientists to develop treatments for orthopedic diseases.  Henson is particularly curious about lame animals and lame people. In the translational medicine processes going on in her laboratory, she and her colleagues work in a “bench to bedside” manner.  

Her current research involves a new bio-material that is used those to treat large surface defects in joints – knee joints in people – that will also be applicable to veterinary species such as pigs, horses, and dogs.

The controversial part of her work concerns the use of large animals for medical clinical trials. Her lab is using sheep. “We take our sheep, make little holes in the joints and we fill those holes with our novel treatmentt to prove that treatment is both safe and really offers a significant improvement in the expected outcome.  If you didn’t put the scaffold in, the joints wouldn’t heal,” Henson says in a podcast interview with Podacademy.org.
 

So far, these osteochondral plugs have had success, showing to be very effective in treating joint surface defects. In the bigger picture, this means that the big lesions that can occur from injuries in sports or traumatic accidents, could potentially be cured - a treatment which medicine is currently lacking. If such joint surface defects are not treated, they will eventually result in arthritis. Henson and her team state : “We have the ambitious hope that using these scaffolds we can stop osteoarthritis before it starts, cure the joint and get it back to a healthy environment.”  

Henson justifies her work with sheep on several levels, explaining that the end goal of her research is in fact as much for large animals as for humans. Currently, a horse, for example, with an injured joint, is not going to receive a hip replacement, as a person might. Instead, it will live a slow, painful death. She also validates that her team takes care to monitor and minimize the sheep’s pain levels, as well as treat each individual animal with dignity. She obliges that yes, the sheep are killed at the end of their experiments. However, she points out, they buy the animals for experiments from culled ewes, animals who were going to be sent to be killed, likely in a much more stressful environment. Instead, these animals live for an extra 9-12 months of stellar care and are then “peacefully let go”.
Looking back in the history of medicine to prominent examples of translational medicine with experiments on big animals, Henson points to the origins of heart and lung transplants on pigs. “So it comes back to whether we feel comfortable with the idea that an individual sheep contributes to amassing this data.” An individual sheep, pig, or rat.



Source: Podacademy
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JAN 13, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 13, 2020
Drinking Tea Linked to Better Heart Health
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing have found that drinking black or green tea three or more times per week helps improve ...
JAN 15, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 15, 2020
Women's Blood Vessels Age Faster than Men's, Study shows
Around 75 million Americans have high blood pressure, or roughly 1 in every 3 adults. Now, new research has shown that women’s blood vessels age fast...
FEB 05, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 05, 2020
Gut Bacteria Affect How the Colon Moves
The contraction and relaxation of muscles in the wall of the colon helps move food along and can become dysfunctional....
FEB 07, 2020
Cardiology
FEB 07, 2020
Eating Red and Processed Meats Increases Heart Disease Risk
Although the link between consuming processed meats and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, studies focusing on the link...
FEB 12, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
FEB 12, 2020
Vapers Have Epigenetic Alterations Like Those Seen in Smokers
The activity of genes can be altered with chemical tags that get added to the genome, so-called epigenetic modifications....
FEB 12, 2020
Cancer
FEB 12, 2020
Can we eradicate cervical cancer within a century?
Two studies recently published in The Lancet present evidence that the eradication of cervical cancer could be possible within the next century. The World ...
Loading Comments...