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Born to be killed: Newborn monkeys cut up for vision experiments

Scientists at four institutions, including the University of Houston, College of Optometry, Vanderbilt University, and the National Institute of Mental Health used newborn monkeys in grisly, invasive research, allegedly to study how vision develops in primates. Tiny monkeys, some as young as two weeks old, were subjected to brain surgery during which electrodes were implanted. Next each monkey was tracheostomized and placed in a head frame to undergo extensive electrode recording trials lasting 2 to 4 days. The researchers report that they used Propofol, a short-acting anesthetic, for these marathon procedures. Finally after days of electrode testing, the babies were killed so their brains cut be cut out and studied.

Their findings, which they described as “not surprising” were that many of the neural pathways they observed functioning were the same as those that have already been traced in adult monkeys. They weren’t surprised by this because they noted that baby monkeys already have “functional vision at birth.” So all that suffering and waste of life yielded no new knowledge or advancements in this field.

If that’s not infuriating enough, they boast that the results of this research on baby monkeys duplicates previous studies done on cats and monkeys, and still worse that their results “dovetail nicely” with information from observational studies on human neonates.

This experiment, funded by the National Eye Institute at $734,000. for just 2012, contained not one single word about how this research will help humans or, more specifically, children. But the grant abstract, which has been chugging along since 1989 and sucking up millions of dollars, claims that these studies will help in the treatment of amblyopia, a childhood disorder characterized by fuzzy vision, and highly treatable with early detection.

Dr. Stephen Kaufman, a board-certified ophthalmologist in practice for 22 years, reviewed this experiment at IDA’s request and concluded, “I have seen no evidence that any of this research has assisted the management of amblyopia (“lazy eye”) in humans. Human clinical investigations have guided the management of this condition.”

So we have a suggestion for NIH: Why not put the money into early detection for children who could be helped and leave the animals alone?

What You Can Do

Please help IDA in speaking out about the millions of dollars that fund this sort of outrageously wasteful and terribly cruel research on animals. It’s time to put a stop to it. The US economy is in crisis, making this even more urgent to address.

Click here to contact your US Senators and Congressperson. Ask for much stricter oversight for granting money to animal research. Insist that all NIH-funded experiments comply with its stated mission “to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.”

You can also call your elected officials. Find their phone numbers, or call the US Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

 

 

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Baldwin, MK, Kaskan, PM, Zhang, B, Chino, YM, Kaas, JH. “Cortical and Subcortical Connections of V1 and V2 in Early Postnatal Macaque Monkeys.” The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2012, 520:544–569.