Monkeys’ Deaths at UBC Prompt Calls for Investigation

University Officials Say Animals’ Deaths “Completely Unanticipated”

 

VANCOUVER, BC – This week, Stop UBC Animal Research filed formal complaints to government officials about the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) cruel experiments on monkeys after four of the animals – who had become so severely disabled by the experiments – had to be killed. In letters to the Canadian Council on Animal Care, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and BC Ministry of Agriculture, the animal advocacy group urged officials to conduct an immediate investigation into UBC’s Department of Neurology researcher Dr. Doris Doudet’s brain studies on monkeys. Stop UBC Animal Research also asked federal and provincial agencies to halt funding to UBC’s Brain Research Centre, where Dr. Doudet’s invasive procedures were conducted, until an investigation is completed. The experiments involved damaging the brains of eighteen macaque monkeys through poisoning with the neurotoxin MPTP. Four of the monkeys had to be killed because they were so incapacitated by the experiment. Dr. Doudet also has a history of administering electroconvulsive shock to monkeys to induce seizures.

 

According to veterinary expert, Dr. Nedim Buyukmichi, Emeritus Professor, University of California-Davis, who reviewed Dr. Doudet’s research:

 

“The abnormalities caused by the MPTP result in considerable disability for the monkeys. The monkeys are not able to move normally, have problems with balance and coordination, cannot feed themselves properly, have tremors and periods of rigidity of their bodies and loss of ability to perform normal gestures that are forms of communication between individuals. Although we cannot be certain what is going through the minds of these monkeys as they lose their ability to control their bodies, it has to be extremely frightening for them. The disability caused by the poisoning was so severe in four of the monkeys that these individuals had to be killed right after the PET scanning. The fate of the others has not been made known.” [emphasis added]

 

According to the Georgia Straight today, Helen Burt, associate vice president of research at UBC, said “the four deaths were ‘completely unanticipated’ as the research was peer-reviewed and government-funded and the administration of the drug was not unusual in such a ‘scientifically rigorous study.’”

 

But Stop UBC Animal Research said Dr. Doudet has offered conflicting accounts about the fate of monkeys she used in her studies. For instance, in Dr. Doudet’s April 12, 2010 progress report, “Experiment L91,” she stated the intention to PET scan then kill some monkeys at six and more at twelve months in order to harvest brain tissue. But in her 2011 article – “Abnormal metabolic brain networks in a nonhuman primate model of parkinsonism” – to the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, Dr. Doudet said the monkeys were euthanized due to the severity of disabilities caused by the experiment, almost as if implying the deaths of the animals were unfortunate by-products of the research. Few, if any, credible scientific journals would accept a protocol detailing such egregious cruelty toward test subjects. It appears Dr. Doudet may have reconfigured her protocols in order to comply with journal standards.

 

Dr. Doudet has a history of exploring the effects of electroconvulsive therapy in non-human primates, including recent experiments in which six monkeys were given electric shocks to cause seizures. For this, the monkeys were given only a sedative and a drug to paralyze them. There was no mention of pain relief. Since the sedated monkeys would not be completely unconscious, Stop UBC Animal Research said it was concerned the animals would have been capable of feeling pain and terror.

 

“Non-human primates are highly intelligent and sensitive animals.  It is unacceptable that they should be subjected to such shockingly cruel and invasive experiments,” said Dr. Buyukmichi. “Elegant and sophisticated methods exist currently to study, in an ethical manner, human patients – the findings in monkeys have no relevance to the human situation.”

 

“Compounding the tragedy of the damage being done to non-human primates on a seemingly regular basis by UBC researchers is the fact is that no cure for Parkinson’s Disease is even on the radar: all that is being attempted is the creation of different animal models, afflicted with parkinson-like symptoms,” said Anne Birthistle, Research Investigation Director for Stop UBC Animal Research. “Many in the scientific community are critical of this type of research given that Parkinson’s Disease cannot be replicated in animals, and many relevant, human-based alternatives are readily available.”

 

UBC’s Brain Research Centre receives substantial government funds. For instance, the BC provincial government has provided more than $39 million to the Centre since 2001. Stop UBC Animal Research urged government agencies to reallocate the lion’s share of biomedical funding to cutting-edge, non-animal technologies.

 

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CONTACT: 604-551-3324

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: See summary of UBC’s primate experiments below. Also, contact Ms. Birthistle for copies of Stop UBC Animal Research’s letters to the CCAC and government officials.

 

 

SUMMARY OF PRIMATE STUDY PREPARED BY DR. NEDIM BUYUKMIHCI

Ma, Yilong; Peng, Shichun; Spetsieris, Phoebe G.; Sossi, Vesna; Eidelberg, David and Doudet, Doris J.  Abnormal metabolic brain networks in a nonhuman primate model of parkinsonism. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism: Official Journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism 2011 (30 November); Epub ahead of print: Epub ahead of print.

 

Institutions:

Center for Neurosciences, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York, United States

 

Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

 

Department of Neurology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

 

Summary:

The main aspect of this paper is that monkeys were poisoned with a drug called MPTP (which is 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine). This drug causes damage to the brain which results in signs that are similar to Parkinson’s disease in people. It must be emphasized that the disease (abnormalities) produced by the drug is NOT Parkinson’s disease.

 

There are substantial differences between the artificially induced disease and that which occurs spontaneously in human beings. In fact, it has been shown that MPTP exposure in human beings does not cause Parkinson’s disease.[1] Further support of this lack of similarity with the human disease is that these researchers found that there were differences in their results when compared with human patients and they attributed this to interspecies differences. This is an important admission on their part. This and the fact that the same data can be derived from human patients argue strongly that the monkey work is not necessary.

 

In this paper, eighteen adult macaques (source or species not stated) were used. The experimental group was given MPTP intravenously repeatedly over a period of time in order to cause the damage to the brain that would result in parkinsonian-like abnormalities. Once they developed these abnormalities, they were anesthetized and subjected to PET scanning. The abnormalities caused by the MPTP result in considerable disability for the monkeys. The monkeys are not able to move normally, have problems with balance and coordination, cannot feed themselves properly, have tremors and periods of rigidity of their bodies and loss of ability to perform normal gestures that are forms of communication between individuals. Although we cannot be certain what is going through the minds of these monkeys as they lose their ability to control their bodies, it has to be extremely frightening for them. The disability caused by the poisoning was so severe in four of the monkeys that these individuals had to be killed right after the PET scanning. The fate of the others was not stated.

 

Stop UBC Animal Research has received official documentation of animal cruelty at the hands of scientists working in the Department of Neurology and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UBC.  In a study published online in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 11/30/11, UBC scientists admitted to the poisonings of 18 monkeys in order to disable them and scan their brains, regardless of the increasing controversy surrounding this type of Parkinson’s Disease research.

 

The scientists are seeking to develop new models of Parkinson’s Disease, while  human tissue samples from human PD sufferers are readily available and hold greater promise of beneficial treatment and even a cure for an exclusively-human disease. (Deep-brain stimulation, the only effective therapy to date for PD patients, was developed in clinical (non-animal) research.)

 

Signifying the lack of safeguards and concern for the animals involved, four of the monkeys in the recent UBC study were so severely disabled that they had to be killed immediately after scanning at UBC Hospital using positron imaging technology developed and intended for human medical use.

 

The scans are made possible by TRIUMF equipment at UBC. The Canadian Institute of Health Research Team Grant CTP-79851 funded the experiments.

 

Stop UBC Animal Research calls for an immediate moratorium on this type of violent research on non-human primates and an investigation of the ongoing, increasingly disturbing non-human primate research at the University of British Columbia.

 

 

[1] Snow, Barry J.; Vingerhoets, Francois J.G.; Langston, J. William; Tetrud, James W.; Sossi, Vesna and Calne, Donald B.   Pattern of dopaminergic loss in the striatum of humans with MPTP induced parkinsonism. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 2000 (March);68(3):313-316