Tag: animal experimentation

Bioethics News

Paolo Macchiarini, Fraud, and Oversight: A Case of Falsified Stem Cell Research

by Michael S Dauber, GBI Visiting Scholar

According to a recent story by John Rasko and Carl Power in The Guardian, surgeon Paolo Macchiarini’s research in artificial windpipes, previously hailed as pioneering medicine with the promise to save many lives, has been exposed as a fraud. Miacchiarini had previously received public praise for creating artificial windpipes by grafting stem cells onto plastic frames, which allowed him to “grow” new trachea for his patients.

While much of the scientific community was eager to believe Miaccharini had made significant breakthroughs, not everyone was convinced. According to a Swedish TV series called Experimenten, most of Miaccharini’s patients died within a few years of their procedures, and it was unclear that the experimental surgeries actually helped: in fact, they may have made matters much worse. Deeper investigation revealed that Macchiarini had actually falsified much of his data, and that institutional checks that normally prevent fraudulent individuals from being hired had been ignored. For example, according to an “external inquiry,” he was hired by the Karolinska Institute in 2010 despite various fraudulent, concerning, and questionable information on his resume (including a claim from a reference that he had been “blocked from a professorship in Italy”). The report also found that there had been inappropriate contact between Macchiarini and the Karolinska Institute’s Vice-Chancellor during his recruitment.

Even more troubling, the Institute failed to comply with government regulations designed to ensure research and clinical interventions are practiced ethically. According to Rasko and Power, Macchiarini failed to test his artificial airways in animals before implanting them in three human patients, and he did not apply for approval from an institutional review board or other ethics committee, despite the fact that Stockholm’s board was housed at the Institute.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Human Tissues in a Dish: The Research and Ethical Implications of Organoid Technology

January 19, 2017

(Science) – Growing functional human tissues and organs would provide much needed material for regeneration and repair. New technologies are taking us in that direction. In addition to their use in regenerative medicine, stem cells that grow and morph into organ-like structures known as organoids can be used in drug development and toxicology testing. The potential developments and possibilities are numerous and affect not only biomedicine but also areas of ongoing ethical debate, such as animal experimentation, research on human embryos and fetuses, ethics review, and patient consent.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Digital Immortality of the Future – Or, Advancements in Brain Emulation Research

By Kathy Bui

This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.
Kathy Bui is a 4th year undergraduate at Emory University, majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Psychology. She hopes to pursue a PhD in neurobiology after graduation. Her current interests include social justice topics of class disparities and human health rights. 
Introduction: “How do you want to be remembered?” 
The fear of our looming death has haunted us since human life began. It’s not hard to believe that the quest of human immortality has not changed since Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality in 22nd century BC. However, with the technological strides in conjunction with ambitious billionaires, the cure to death may be closer than we think. Life expectancy has been steadily increasing over decades, and yet, Americans seem to look forward to the inevitable prospect of immortality. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 44% of Americans would want to extend their life to age 120 if given the opportunity [1, 2].

An integral part of human life is our biological death. We have sought to create artworks, legends, monuments that would outlive us – to show that we have made a mark on this world. In fact, they have: the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, the Pantheon in Rome, and the Nanchan Temple in Wutai are only a few examples of the remaining buildings, surviving for centuries beyond their makers.
Interestingly enough, there is something else that has not only survived but is growing and expanding beyond expectation: the internet [3].

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Embodied Cognition: What it means to "Throw like a Girl"

By Jenn Lee

Jenn Laura Lee is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at New York University. Her scattered neuroethics projects involve advancing harms reduction policies for illicit drug use and re-evaluating the ethics of animal experimentation.
While I tell myself now that I’m just “not the athletic type,” the reality is that I might have been. Back in middle school, I recall actually really enjoying track and field, basketball, and soccer. But at just the age when girls reach peak athletic shape, a socially-imposed understanding of “femininity” begins to forge a new, contrived relationship between one’s self and one’s body.
The rehearsal of gendered social performances run deep enough to mould even our most basic bodily movements. In Throwing like a Girl, Iris Young dissects this phenomenon through the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (who was, coincidentally, one of Simone de Beauvoir’s first romantic interests).

Many are familiar with de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, in which she describes some of the structural biological differences between men and women that have perhaps led to female oppression. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, also a preeminent phenomenologist of the 40’s and 50’s, argued mainly for the primacy of embodiment – meaning that any sweeping claims about the nature of the external universe must first take into account our physical bodies and how they move, perceive, sense, and interact with the outside world. He would argue that if we want to study consciousness, we can’t only study the brain – we must concurrently strive to understand the basic sensorimotor phenomena which feed the brain everything it knows.
The concept of embodied cognition is taking off in cognitive neuroscience.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Doin’ what comes natur’lly

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A new medical technology encounters the most resistance when Joe Bloggs thinks it is “unnatural”. If you nailed a placard to a door with the words “plague within”, politicians could not run away fast enough. So the approval of challenging new technologies often depends on reframing the debate either to make them appear natural or to whisk the word away.

After decades of experience with debates about the “naturalness” of IVF, mitochondrial donation, homosexuality, hybrid embryos, GM foods, animal experimentation, cloning, surrogacy, gamete donation and so on, the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics has taken the bull by the horns and written a position paper on “naturalness”. (Summary here. Full report here.)

Since the philosophical debate over naturalness is at least 2,400 years old, a committee of British panjandrums is unlikely to come up with new ideas, but it could give the government an arsenal of arguments to justify controversial policies.

The idea of naturalness is never far from the centre of bioethical discourse. “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic’?” tweeted Elton John in March 2015 in an argument with Dolce and Gabbana. Bishop Keenan of Paisley argued that a technique to prevent mitochondrial DNA disorders “distorts the natural process of fertility” when it was being debated in Parliament in February.

As the Council’s report points out, the word is susceptible to many interpretations and often people talk at cross purposes.

The report sets out five understandings of naturalness that show the different ways in which the terms “natural” and “unnatural” are used:

Neutral: a neutral/sceptical view that does not equate naturalness with goodness.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Opening up the animal house

Many, many years ago, while working part time in the press office of one of the UK’s biggest medical research charities, I was appalled to learn that its policy on dealing with all enquiries about experiments involving animals was not to answer them direct. Callers were instead advised to contact the Association of Medical Research Charities for a general statement about policy on animal work.

Admittedly this was in the days when animal rights activism was in one of its more violent phases. But, even so, defensiveness of this kind was hardly calculated to dispel suspicions that what went on in the labs was so appalling that it couldn’t be discussed.

A pressing need for greater openness was recognised in the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ 2005 report The ethics of research involving animals. Paragraph 15.52 of the report argued that to improve and sustain public trust, researchers at animal research facilities must find more ways to open themselves to dialogue.

“We therefore recommend that those involved in animal experimentation should take a proactive stance with regard to explaining their research, the reasons for conducting it, the actual implications for the animals involved and the beneficial outcomes they intend for society. These discussions should take the form of a two-way process, in which scientists not only inform the public about their research, but also listen to and understand concerns by members of the public.” 

Easy to say – but not so easy to put into effect when the culture that had grown up was one characterised by reticence bordering on secrecy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – July 2015 Part II by Michelle Pentecost

 Here’s comes the second round of what you’ll find ‘In the Journals’ from July. For the Special Issue on HIV Criminalisation and Public Health in the latest edition of Critical Public Health, see this week’s earlier post.

To start us off, the latest issue of Medical Anthropology focuses on ‘exploring bodies in Southern and East Africa.’ In their editorial, Emilie Venables and Lenore Manderson introduce articles that ‘examine how an analytical lens of corporeality can offer new ways to examine and understand linkages and dissonances between migration, violence, and health in the lives of people across the Southern and Eastern African region’.

Images of Place: Visuals from Migrant Women Sex Workers in South Africa

Elsa Oliveira & Jo Vearey

 Many migrants in inner-city Johannesburg survive through unconventional and sometimes criminalized livelihood activities. In this article, we draw on data from a study that applied a participatory visual methodology to work with migrant women who sell sex, and explored the suitability of this approach as a way to engage with a presumed ‘hard to reach’ urban population. The lived experiences of migrant women sex workers were documented by combining participatory visual methods with a more traditional ethnographic approach, and this approach led us to new ways of seeing their worlds. This methodological approach raises important considerations for working with marginalized and criminalized urban groups.

“Once a Soldier, a Soldier Forever”: Exiled Zimbabwean Soldiers in South Africa

Godfrey Maringira & Lorena Núñez Carrasco

 Through military training, soldiers’ bodies are shaped and prepared for war and military-related duties.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Animal experimentation controversy. Research institutes oppose new initiative by animal rights activists

“Prohibiting animal experiments would very negatively affect new advances”

Animal experiments controversy. European Commission opposes activists initiativeAnimal rights activists sent a letter to the European Commission on 3rd March this year, in which they requested that experiments on animals be banned. Against this proposal, more than 120 different types of research institutes and social organisations have sent another letter to the European Commission opposing this initiative, stating that current legal regulations guarantee the rights of animals used in research, and that prohibiting these experiments would very negatively affect new advances in the field of health (Nature 519, 134,2015, 12-III-2015).

La entrada Animal experimentation controversy. Research institutes oppose new initiative by animal rights activists aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Animals in US Laboratories: Who Counts, Who Matters?

Guest post by Alka Chandna

How many animals are experimented on in laboratories? It’s a simple question, the answer to which provides a basic parameter to help us wrap our heads around the increasingly controversial and ethically harrowing practice of locking animals in cages and conducting harmful procedures on them that are often scary, painful, and deadly. Yet ascertaining the answer in the United States – the world’s largest user of animals in experiments – is surprisingly difficult.

In the eyes of the US Animal Welfare Act (AWA) – the single federal law that governs the treatment of animals used in experimentation – not all animals are created equal. Mice, rats, and birds bred for experimentation, and all cold-blooded animals – estimated by industry to comprise more than 95 percent of all animals used – are all unscientifically and dumbfoundingly excluded from the AWA’s definition of “animal”. Orwell cheers from his grave while Darwin rolls in his.

Leaving aside the question of whether mice and rats should be categorized as vegetable or mineral, the exclusion of these animals from the AWA also results in a dearth of data on the most widely used species, as the only figures on animal use in US laboratories that are systematically collected, organized, and published by the government are on AWA-regulated species.

By comparison, the European Union, Canada, and many other countries cover all vertebrate and some invertebrate animal species under their experimentation policies and publish data on their use.

Needless to say, this American blind spot makes it almost impossible to know the full scope of current and past animal use in experiments and the impact, if any, of government policies and programs committed to reducing animal use.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.