Creighton, UNMC defend treatment of lab animals after incidents involving pigs, primates
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Creighton, UNMC defend treatment of lab animals after incidents involving pigs, primates
From Source

Omaha’s two university medical centers have had laboratory problems that ran afoul of animal treatment regulations in the past three years, including a high death rate of pigs and a cage breakout by two monkeys.

Creighton University has had incidents with its treatment of swine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center with its handling of primates, according to federal and university documents obtained by Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now, or SAEN. A Creighton scientist said his research has been temporarily suspended twice within the past two years.

Documents indicate that Creighton had too high a death rate in its microswine bred for cardiovascular research. Creighton scientist Devendra Agrawal said his heart research was halted this year by an internal committee for two months.

At UNMC, two primates escaped from their cage in an incident in which four primates were injured, the papers say. In another incident at UNMC, a primate died after attempts were made to collect cerebral spinal fluid from it.
Dr. John Bradfield, a veterinarian and director of comparative medicine at UNMC, said that “any good scientist knows their animals well. They have a vested interest in keeping the animals healthy.” Striving to keep them healthy also is “the right thing to do,” Bradfield said.

Universities have federally mandated committees, or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, that monitor the treatment of lab animals. Universities generally self-report lab animal problems and mistakes to the federal government and form correction plans.

SAEN routinely does federal records requests to discover negative animal-treatment episodes in laboratories, thus “exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation,” the organization says. Michael Budkie, the co-founder of the organization, said the animals are “being treated as though they’re inanimate objects.”

Agrawal is one of the best-funded scientists at Creighton, having attracted millions of federal dollars in recent years for his research. He oversees the project involving microswine and coronary artery bypass graft surgery. “We really look after them so well,” Agrawal said of the pigs.

Tom Murray, provost at Creighton, called Budkie’s comment about careless treatment of animals “flatly inaccurate” and said his institution takes “the responsibility of animal care very seriously.”

Agrawal said microswine are used in his research because their hearts have similar characteristics to the human heart and to human cardiovascular disease. He said the surgery done in the research is delicate and that a large number of pigs have died over the past three years — perhaps 10 to 15, although Agrawal said he wasn’t sure how many.

Nevertheless, he said, if he can make strides with his research and accumulate valuable information, it can yield results that improve cardiovascular disease treatment and surgery for people.

He said Creighton brought in an expert this year from the Medical University of South Carolina to observe the surgery on the microswine and the expert was impressed with the work of Agrawal’s team. He suggested a “few minor things,” Agrawal said. “But we were, in fact, doing very well.”

At UNMC, one primate died this year after personnel tried to collect cerebral spinal fluid, a document says. A veterinarian eventually obtained the fluid, but the primate showed symptoms of brainstem hemorrhage afterward and was euthanized.

And in July, UNMC reported to the National Institutes of Health that two primates escaped from a cage because of a faulty door. The pair of primates “interacted” with two other primates and all four were injured.

Three of them needed “minor surgical repair,” the report says, but the four had healed and were “active and healthy” as of midsummer.

Bradfield said the primates are macaques, and they are used for HIV research. The two macaques squeezed through the door, he said, and scrapped with two macaques that were still in a cage.

In neither the escape nor the death did the research get shut down, Bradfield said. “No fines, no sanctions, no issues,” he said. “These incidents are closed.”

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