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Thread: Why test rats, when we should test primates?

  1. #1

    Why test rats, when we should test primates?

    I'm not a scientist nor a dumb ass either, but I notice several differences b/w a rat and a human. Why don't we test primates, seeing that they are more similar to humans than a rat. I know this wouldn't fly in the U.S b/c of all the animal rights, so why not take it overseas. I imagine it would take a serious lab, but I think it can be done and would prove to be more beneficial than testing therpies in rats.
    Donnie: Dr. Xiao, What are your thoughts on a cure/combination therapy for SCI's??
    CG Xiao: Donnie, I don't want to disappoint you, but I think it is impossible to restore the continuity of the cord or "bridge the gap" in the near future, let's say: 50 years. Dr Wise Young has been my most respected scientist in SCI. He has dedicated and contributed to SCI no other can match.

  2. #2
    From a 2007 post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Over 90% of spinal cord injury experiments are in rodents (rats or mice). You clearly have never seen a spinal-injured monkey or taken care of one. They not only know that they have been spinal-injured but they know who did it. If given the choice of giving an experimental therapy to a monkey and a human, I would do the latter first, unless there is a very strong safety or other reasons why it must be done first in monkeys. Monkey experiments are not only as expensive as human cinical trials but there are no reliable monkey spinal cord injury models. Very few labs have the capability of causing spinal cord injury in a dozen or more monkeys and take care of them.

    The cat spinal cord is fairly similar to the human in terms of anatomy. The rhesus monkey spinal cord is about the same size as that of the cat. All my methylprednisolone experiments were done with cats in the early 1980's. It was very difficult series of experiments because I am a cat person. In 1987, when the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) changed the rules of animal care so that all animals must be raised from birth for laboratory experimentation and the price of cats went from $60 to $400, I focused on the development of the rat spinal cord injury model.

    The contusion model in the rat has many of the features of spinal cord injury in humans. You get syrinxes, demyelination, neuropathic pain, spasticity, bladder spasticity, spasms, and other manifestation of spinal cord injury in humans. After a 25 mm weight drop, most of the rats essentially become ASIA C but are 90% are unable to take weight-bearing steps. After a 12.5 mm weight drop, about 50% of the rats recover walking (BBB score of 13-15). A 50 mm weight drop results in 100% of the rats being unable to walk. Hamsters are relatively rare used for spinal cord injury. About 10% of animal spinal cord injuries are in mice.
    I hope this helps answer your question.

    Steven
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  3. #3
    Steven, thanks.

    Donnie, let me add a small Economics of Spinal Cord Injury 101 talk.

    Typical costs of running a spinal cord injury laboratory. Typical spinal cord injury grants that one can get from private foundations or companies are $50,000-$250,000 over a 1-3 year period. From the NIH, grants are bigger at $500,000-$1,000,000 over a 3-5 year period. A budget of $250,000 per year can support 50% of a faculty investigator, a postdoctoral fellow, a graduate student, and a technician. A well-funded principal investigator may have a laboratory budget of about $500,000 per year.

    Cost of rat experiments. Excluding personnel and equipment costs, it costs about $1000 per rat spinal cord injury experiment. Purchasing, preparing, and caring of a spinal-injured rat for 3 months is about $500. Histology (sectioning and staining) and other analyses of the rats cost over $300 per rat. Combined with other costs, such as isolating, growing, preparing cells for treatment etc., it adds up to over $1000 per rat. If you do 100 rats per year, the costs are over $100,000 per year. Assuming that it takes 50 rats to test a therapy, one can test perhaps two therapies a year.

    Cost of monkey experiments. Purchase of monkeys are about $10,000 each, if you can get them. Cost of caring for monkeys exceed $10/day per monkey. Since regeneration and everything else is slower in monkeys, the equivalent 3-month experiment in rats must be increased to about a year in monkeys. So, for the same $100,000 budget that allows you to study 100 rats per year, you can study 5 monkeys a year.

    Monkey spinal cord injury facilities. There are only about a dozen primate facilities in the United States. To do monkey work, you have to travel to the facility. More important, very few investigators have any experience operating on or caring for monkeys. By the way, it is not easy to care for spinal-injured monkeys (can you imagine squeezing their bladders daily?). Most monkey spinal cord injury studies have used hemisections, i.e. incomplete spinal cord injury models.

    So, if you are an investigator and want to test a therapy that you think will regenerate the spinal cord, which would you choose? Rat or monkey? Not surprisingly, very few choose monkeys. Over the past three decades, I know of only three laboratories (Mark Tuszynsky in UCSD, Almudena Ramon-Cueto in Spain, and the Miami Project) that have taken the time and the considerable effort to learn and do spinal cord injury experiments in monkeys. Others may have done so but they don't come readily to mind.

    Wise.

  4. #4
    Thanks for the responses. Even though it seems more expensive and complex I still think the therapies would yield better results. I have a hard time seeing how to bridge a gap and get axons to grow in a rat(maybe a mm or two) vs a human(a foot or maybe longer). I would also think that a monkey has a brain more similar to ours than that of a rat.. Just my opinion. Also, we've studied rats for countless years and produced how many therapies for SCI's in humans? Not saying we should stop testing rats but maybe try the same therapies on monkeys.. That's if the funding is provided. Post script: not trying to take anything from the scientists testing rats or anything for that matter. Anyone trying to eradicate a disease or cure it is a friend of mine.
    Donnie: Dr. Xiao, What are your thoughts on a cure/combination therapy for SCI's??
    CG Xiao: Donnie, I don't want to disappoint you, but I think it is impossible to restore the continuity of the cord or "bridge the gap" in the near future, let's say: 50 years. Dr Wise Young has been my most respected scientist in SCI. He has dedicated and contributed to SCI no other can match.

  5. #5
    It is evident that monkeys are more similar to humans than rats are but that should not disguise the fact that at the fundamental, cell biology level, rats and humas are very, very similar.

  6. #6
    borgens uses dogs. they're cheaper and easier to care for and their injury response seems to mimic our own.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by antiquity View Post
    borgens uses dogs. they're cheaper and easier to care for and their injury response seems to mimic our own.
    Antiquity,

    Borgens uses dogs but these are "naturally" injured dogs, hit by cars, etc. He is essentially doing clinical trials on these dogs that are admitted to the veterinary hospital. I really admire that and think that it is a great approach.

    At one point, I seriously considered going to UC Irvine when Joan Irvine-Smith suggested that she would fly every spinal-injured horse there for treatment (instead of shooting them). Wouldn't that be great?

    Wise.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young View Post
    Antiquity,

    Borgens uses dogs but these are "naturally" injured dogs, hit by cars, etc. He is essentially doing clinical trials on these dogs that are admitted to the veterinary hospital. I really admire that and think that it is a great approach.

    At one point, I seriously considered going to UC Irvine when Joan Irvine-Smith suggested that she would fly every spinal-injured horse there for treatment (instead of shooting them). Wouldn't that be great?

    Wise.
    I know. I hope no one assumed that he was injuring healthy dogs. I mentioned dogs as they are a large animal alternative to primates but are easier to care for.

    The Center for Paralysis Research was founded to both develop and test new methods of treatment for spinal cord, brain injuries, and certain diseases of the nervous system. The Center utilizes its close affiliation with the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine to move basic laboratory methods into clinically meaningful veterinary testing with naturally occurring cases of dog spinal cord injuries and paralyzing diseases. These clinical trials have proven to speed development of therapies to the next step, human clinical trials.
    http://www.vet.purdue.edu/cpr/index.html

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young View Post
    Antiquity,

    Borgens uses dogs but these are "naturally" injured dogs, hit by cars, etc. He is essentially doing clinical trials on these dogs that are admitted to the veterinary hospital. I really admire that and think that it is a great approach.

    At one point, I seriously considered going to UC Irvine when Joan Irvine-Smith suggested that she would fly every spinal-injured horse there for treatment (instead of shooting them). Wouldn't that be great?

    Wise.
    As a horse fan I agree...Tufts in Ma. Thoroughbred rescue soooo in need.
    7



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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Donnie View Post
    I'm not a scientist nor a dumb ass either, but I notice several differences b/w a rat and a human. Why don't we test primates, seeing that they are more similar to humans than a rat. I know this wouldn't fly in the U.S b/c of all the animal rights, so why not take it overseas. I imagine it would take a serious lab, but I think it can be done and would prove to be more beneficial than testing therpies in rats.

    Not sure if I would be comfortable with research being done on non-human primates.
    Last edited by Jim; 09-19-2009 at 07:51 PM.

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