Thursday, 19 December 2013

Where to from here for animal research?

Animal research is fraught with problems. #MSBlog #MSRsearch

"The following press piece from Nature suggests that EAEologists, and other animal scientists, need a bit more rigor in their work. Could  they learn from the clinicians? I suspect not, we have as many biases and problems with our trial designs."



Malcolm Macleod. Why animal research needs to improve. Nature 477, 511 (2011) | doi:10.1038/477511a.


Excerpts


.... Many medical discoveries have made real differences to the lives of a great number of people, but could the research be done better? .....

.... It seems self-evident that we should encourage high-quality work, but what makes for high quality is a matter of opinion, ......

..... Take experiments that use animals to model human diseases. Empirical study of the quality of these experiments is an emerging field, but it does suggest that all is not well. The most reliable animal studies are those that: use randomization to eliminate systematic differences between treatment groups; induce the condition under investigation without knowledge of whether or not the animal will get the drug of interest; and assess the outcome in a blinded fashion. Studies that do not report these measures are much more likely to overstate the efficacy of interventions.....

..... Unfortunately, at best one in three publications follows these basic protections against bias. This suggests that authors, reviewers and editors accord them little importance.....

..... Other basic aspects of the design of experiments in animals also receive scant attention. In the face of pressures to reduce the number of animals used, investigators often do studies that are too small to detect a significant effect. To guard against such 'underpowered' studies, researchers should calculate the number of animals required to have a reasonable chance of detecting the anticipated effect given the expected variance of the data. Fewer than one in one hundred such publications report sample-size calculations.....

..... Fewer still define beforehand the most important ('primary') outcome. As a result, they tend to report only the outcomes that happen to show statistical significance, reducing a rigorous, hypothesis-testing experiment to something more like observational research......

..... The tendency to publish only positive results is another flaw in animal research. Such bias not only prevents scientists from getting credit for high-quality research that happens to be neutral, but also gives a false impression of efficacy. My research has shown that in animal tests of treatments for focal cerebral ischaemia (a model for stroke), publication bias leads to an overestimation of drug efficacy by about one-third, increasing risk for both clinical-trial participants and the pharmaceutical industry.....

..... So we need to change the rules. If publication in high-impact journals continues to be a yardstick, then the review process must do much more to assess bias. The ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting In VivoExperiments) guidelines ....  are a good start. 


Click on the this link to see Malcolm Macleod and colleagues Christmas eCard

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