Laboratory animal shorts
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:
The European Patent Office on November 24 postponed an expected ruling on a
petition from Compassion in World Farming and 16 other animal welfare and religious groups,
asking it to reverse its 1992 decision that Harvard University and DuPont could be allowed to
patent Oncamouse, a strain of mouse genetically modified to be more vulnerable to human
forms of cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly soon to release two reports
indicating that as result of overfeeding and lack of excercise, many laboratory rodents are
in such poor physical condition that toxicity tests involving them could yield seriously misleading
results. One strain of rat has doubled its average weight since 1970, according to
National Center for Toxicological Research scientist William Allaben, who calls them “Just
blobs of fat with legs.” Commenting on the survival rate of experimental control animals,
which at Merck Research Laboratories fell from 58% to 24% over the past 20 years, Merck
veterinary pathologist Kevin Keenan suggests that, “The most toxic substance we’ve tested in
our laboratory is the food.”
Dr. Charles Vacanti of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center o n
October 25 showed media a human ear which had been grown from a cell culture on a polymer
mold already shaped like an ear, then grafted to the back of a mouse. “There is a shortage
of organs now, so we have to transplant them from other people,” Vacanti’s assistant Dr.
Yilin Cao told media. “In the future we’ll be able to get a very small piece of tissue from a
patient, expand it in vitro in a culture to get lots of cells, and put it on an absorbable polymer
to make any shape.” The procedure could revolutionize reconstructive surgery.