Friday, 27 May 2016

Saving Animals is the name of the game, but is the Masterchef approach to Science going to be Counterproductive

Prof B presented at this weeks nights "Pint of Science " 
offering in London in the Beautiful Mind section

It was nothing to do with potatoes as shown in the advert above.
but a Journey of Discovery that started with an unlikely observation
in a Beetle (Cow pea weevil) and ended in MS.
ProfB presented the group's lastest findings in MS to a public audience. He asked for no tweets, as he revealed our way to potentially control spasticity (So what happened in Clerkenwell, stays in Clerkenwell (area in central London). There was no filming). Maybe you will get this at the research day or you will have to wait until it is published).

The UK government has been pressing for open-ness about animal research and QMUL have signed up to this.

Therefore, they want us to talk about our Animal work and the pint for Science was an opportunity to do this. The Blog is also another conduit, so sad to say we not going to be a completely animal-free zone.

However, if you want such papers discussed then pop them into comments as a suggestion of "What do you think of this?  We may then have a look and post

However, few people will go in public to talk about animal studies, in case there is a militant animal rights protester in the audience.

This harks back to the bad-old days of harassment and life-threatening actions by a few sad individuals (In the USA exchange "abortion" for "animal-rights" activists to get the gist). The UK Government have been clamping down on the activities of the militants, but it is still easier not to put your head above the parapet, as we are being watched;-)

However, as basic research is an important part of the drug discovery process for MS, it is important that people understand some of the issues relating to animals work as it relates to MS and how animals are part of the drug development process. It also  indicates why such research can be very expensive.


The National Centre for the 3Rs of Animals in Research sponsored the session and specifically asked to talk about the beasties.

 As you can see. The talk was given by an electrically powered (see the cable:-) ProfB robot look alike, just in case there were any nutters there. There weren't and the audience was lovely. 


Adoption of the principle of refining experiments to maximise knowledge creation and reduce animal suffering such that you reduce the numbers of animals used and where possible you should strive to replace the use of animals with non-sentient or in silico alternatives is at the heart of the 3Rs. 

This is part of European Legislation on Animal use. However this seems at odds in the way that Animal Science has been moving, notably from our chums in the US.
Masterchef (UK) is a cooking contest, where the people strive for Michelin-starred delivery of food. Time and time again, we see the contestants take the same ingredient and cook it “3-ways”.  e.g cook the breast, make the leg meat into a meatball, and a jus from the liver , etc. etc, This approach can create wonderful looking and tasting puds and dishes, but it appears this is the way that experimental work is going.

So to get “Nature/Science-starred” research papers there is an increasing tendency to do the experiment “3-ways”.  So you do the experiment in three/multiple different MS models or go after the same target and select multiple ways to hit the same thing. So much work that you can't argue against it. 

So costly that most people can't repeat it:-(.  

However, doing this is, is surely blowing the concept of 3Rs out of the water? 

I guess people will say that by getting the "right" answer then the extra animal use can be justified, but is it the right answer?
What happens in human is probably the critical point.  

However, such an experimental approach, leading to experimental design by numbers :-(, is becoming prescriptive and grant and paper referees are asking for the same experiment to be done using different models.  

Do you have to go with the flow or simply sink? 

12 comments:

  1. I attended and really enjoyed ProfB's talk! I'm also among the first non-MS scientists who know how to treat spasticity, but I am not going to spill the beans.
    Thanks for the talk MD!

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  2. To use animals in research in the EU, you must replace the use of animals with non-sentient or in silico alternatives where possible, you must reduce the numbers of animals used to the minimum required to answer the research question, and you must refine procedures so that the animals experience the minimum suffering possible.

    As signatories to the Concordat for Openness in Animal Research, you have made 4 commitments:
    1: be clear about when, how and why you use animals in research
    2: enhance your communications with the media and the public about our research using animals
    3: be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals
    4: report on progress annually and share our experiences

    This means being transparent and honest about your work - not just about the benefits that can potentially be derived from the results, but also about the impact and the harm to the animals used - even in the face of those who may hold a very different opinion to your own.

    You are also under pressure to publish in high impact journals who may demand that you increase the numbers of animals in your study in order to be published. If there is no scientific gain to be made from further animal use, then following the journal’s instructions would be in conflict to your obligations under European legislation and you would need to either provide evidence to substantiate your reasons for not carrying out further experiments, or submit your manuscript elsewhere.

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    Replies
    1. Good points that we wholeheartedly agree with.
      We are under no illusions that to effectively and realistically model MS in all its aspects means that the procedure used causes harm to our mice, which is why we seek to limit the numbers used for this to the minimum possible to give a statistically valid result. I know to some this is still unacceptable but, having met many pwMS I'm willing to make that bet is search of better treatments and hopefully one day a true cure.
      Yes, we'd like our research to be published in the highest impact journals to reach the widest audience possible but any referee stipulations (usually from US referees)that conflict with the 3Rs guidelines means that we do not bow to these pressures and will submit elsewhere.

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  3. Reviewers are indeed asking for this. They are probably from the US based on their approach to reviewing grants, which is different in the UK, but if it is a US journaldo/editor do they care about EU legislation? They often reject papers without comment is lack of the master chef approach part of it. This is the world we operate in.

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  4. I personally don't hold my life in greater importance than that of an animal, and do not condone their torture on my behalf. I am not a nutter, do not campaign and do have ms. I just don't think we, as a race, are as important as we think we are, we certainly don't do the planet any favours, and it would get on perfectly well without us. I believe that, driven by money, we are wasting our intelligence on the wrong things. I understand that my view may be unconventional and by voicing it I leave myself open to attack by those who feel differently but if I was being tortured in a lab, I wouldn't like it, though I think some of the ms drugs are still quite experimental, so maybe some of us are more like lab rats than we think.

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    1. Thanks for your opinion however I do object to the term that animals are tortured.

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  5. Thinking about 3R in Bioethics, how for example, the use of Organoids within the scientific research is close to reality to replace the use of animals in scientific studies?
    Or is it still a far cry from the real, something even science fiction movies?

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    Replies
    1. Organoids are not going to model the pharmacokinetic aspects but may useful for 3Rs.

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    2. Thanks MD!
      When I read about the Organoids thought it might be a future way to save the animals used in scientific research.
      I read the CRISPR-Cas9 technique can be used in models of scientific studies to help reduce the number of employed guinea pig...

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  6. Eventually, by linking up different organoids, it will be possible to effectively model a whole human system. At a recent public lecture at QMUL given by Don Ingber of the Wyss Institute http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpage/461/ a 'plug & play' system was described, which allows 10 different organs-on-chips to be hooked up together. The metabolites from one organoid (e.g. mini livers), can then be passed to the culture medium of the next organoid (e.g. mini brains) etc etc.
    The technology is on its way, and one day they hope to personalise it - creating a suite of organoids from the stems cells of the individual patient.

    Read more here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310124859.htm

    This is unfortunately behind a paywall. :-( http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(16)30199-4

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    1. The thing is re organoids is not only would we have to develop a mini CNS but for MS we would also have to have a mini immune system to study the interactions between the two, which I think is beyond us at the moment.
      believe me, if there was any way we could replace mice in our work, we would do in a heartbeat for reasons far too numerous to mention!

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