Examples of Animal Research at Queen’s

[Please note: this is a random selection from hundreds of published Queen’s animal research studies available through PUBMED. To look over abstracts, go to PUBMED website, and in the search window enter Queen’s University Kingston, and the type of animal you wish to read about (dogs, cats, mice, etc.). Note that these abstracts pertain to medical research only, and they represent only the small number of studies that actually make it to publication – so they do not give an accurate picture of the total numbers of animals used at Queen’s for research. Moreover, there is no way to access published information about the animals kept at Queen’s for breeding purposes, or educational purposes, including those animals used solely for the purpose of training researchers how to kill animals.]

Rats

  • A 2013 study from the Department of Psychiatry used 87 rats bred by Charles Rivers Labs. After weaning at age 21 days, the experimental rats were either put in solitary confinement for two months, or given psychotic drugs in order to induce schizophrenia-like symptoms (emotional withdrawal, depression, cognitive impairment). Then the rats were put on a restricted feeding schedule over a 21 day period while their water intake was monitored. The study demonstrated that there is a relationship between these social isolation induced schizophrenia-like symptoms in rats, and increased consumption of water. The idea is that induced psychosis in rats, because it has certain symptoms (such as polydipsia, or unexplained thirst) similar to human schizophrenia (despite radically different causal origins), and despite the vast differences in human and rat physiology, might provide insight into how to use rat models in the future for finding treatments for schizophrenia. The wild improbability of this is evidenced by the fact that this study (as well as a previous study by the same authors) has garnered not a single citation by other researchers.

Dogs

  • A 2004 study from the Department of Physiology used 10 ‘purpose-bred mongrel dogs’. The dogs were anesthetized. Their carotid artery and jugular veins were fitted with tubes to facilitate drug administration and monitoring. The heart was exposed, lifted out of the chest cavity, and suspended in a cradle. A coronary artery was isolated, and then blocked for an hour to damage the tissue (an induced heart attack), and then blood flow was reintroduced over a 3 hour period to allow tissues to partially recover. Then the dogs were killed and their heart and other tissues sampled in order to study causal factors in post-myocardial stunning (delayed recovery of damaged tissue after a heart attack).
  • See PCRM’s website for why dogs are a poor model for human heart research.
  • See also “Review Article: Animal Models of Cardiovascular Diseases”, Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology (2011).
  • Is Queen’s still killing dogs for heart research?

 Monkeys

  • A 2006 study from the Department of Physiology used 5 female rhesus monkeys (origin unknown). The animals were starved over a 10 month period (to bring about weight reductions ranging from 23-46% of body weight) until they ceased menstruation (amenorrhea). Then their food intake was increased until they resumed ovulation. Two years after the end of the experiment, the monkeys are once again in “good health”, including the monkey who lost her hair during the experiment, but has since regrown it. This study demonstrated that starvation inhibits ovulation in rhesus monkeys. The researchers say “This model will be useful for studying the neuroendocrine mechanisms involved in diet-induced anovulation in primates”.
  • We already know that extreme caloric reduction (or exercise for that matter) induces reversible amenorrhea in humans. What vital purpose is served by this study, supposedly justifying the captivity and torture of rhesus monkeys?

Pigeons

  • A 2013 study from the Department of Psychology used 21 adult pigeons from local breeders. The birds were anesthetized. Then the left forebrain was exposed and excised to reveal the visual processing system. The left eye was covered, while the pigeons’ right eyes were exposed to visual stimuli. The relevant brain sections were marked and cut out for study. The birds were killed by lethal injection. This study examined dimensions of visual processing in pigeons (related to stability and balance).
  • This is basic scientific research which may tell us something about pigeon vision, but the authors make no pretense that it has any application to humans. What is the justification for killing pigeons simply to learn things about their visual processing systems?

Guinea Pigs

  • A 2012 study from the Deparment of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences used an unstated number of guinea pigs bred and shipped by Charles Rivers Labs. The guinea pigs were impregnated, and throughout pregnancy were given 4 g of alcohol/kg every day. (That’s about 15 drinks per day for a human female.) Their babies were born underweight, and then, post birth, rapidly put on weight. After weaning, the babies were killed, and it was revealed that they had excessive subcutaneous and visceral fat, including fat around the pancreas which is a risk factor for diabetes. The study doesn’t bother to say what happened to the mothers. The study demonstrated that chronic prenatal ethanol exposure may increase the risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
  • Since we already know that chronic alcohol exposure is extremely dangerous to the human fetus (e.g. fetal alcohol syndrome), and that chronic drinking by humans can cause metabolic syndrome and diabetes, what is the vital purpose of this study? (Many jurisdictions have banned alcohol and tobacco testing on animals, and some, like Italy, have recently banned any addiction research on animals.)

Cats

  • A 2011 study from the Department of Physiology used 6 adult cats (origin unknown). The cats received a pre-surgical injection “cocktail” of drugs. Then they were anaesthetized and placed in a head and body brace. The upper vertebrae were removed to expose the nerves of the spinal column. Sections of the spinal cord were damaged or removed. The cats were kept alive for 7-9 days after this surgery which caused catastrophic injury—days which we can only imagine were bleak, painful and frightening. Then they were anaesthetized again, and returned to the brace. The spinal cord was exposed again, and the scar tissue which had formed over the previous week was removed. The animals were put on respirators, and given an injection to paralyze them, and were then injected with various kinds of staining fluid which were allowed 8-10 hours to spread through tissues. Then the cats were killed by lethal injection, and their tissues harvested for study.
  • For information regarding the limitations of spinal cord research on animals, and availability of alternatives, see: “Animals in Spinal Cord Injury: A Review”, by Aysha Akhtar, Reviews of Neurosciences.
  • Or for a layperson’s version, see “Why Animal Experimentation Doesn’t Work — Reason 1: Stressed Animals Yield Poor Data”, or “Cure for Spinal Cord Injury Hampered by Animal Models”.
  • A series of related experiments have been performed on cats at Queen’s, and yet almost nobody seems to have read or cited these studies. Why?
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