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(Last updated 8/25/05)

"Federal NIH Office Clears Ohio State Research Program; Finds No Problem With Animal Treatment In Spinal Research Project," 5/23/05.

Ohio State University Reply to Concerns Raised Over Its NIH-Funded Spinal Cord Injury Training Program

In recent months, much attention has been focused on a training course being offered this summer at Ohio State University .  The attention is the result of a massive misinformation campaign being aimed at the University in hopes of ending this project. The campaign is directed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national animal rights group intent on eliminating the use of animals in research.

Regardless of its name, only a minute portion of the PCRM actually consists of physicians or researchers. And the so-called experts it often rolls out to argue against valid laboratory research have scant experience or knowledge in the area of spinal cord injury. We hope that the following facts will help to correct any misinformation you might have received and counter the falsehoods being promulgated by PCRM.

  • The National Institutes of Health, through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, selected Ohio State as the site for a short, three-week course it sponsors to train researchers on a highly effective and humane method of inducing spinal injuries in laboratory animals;
  • The program is being offered to professional scientists who are already active in this area of research.  This is not an academic course for our conventional students, nor is it offered as a part of our academic curricula;
  • Participants will be taught to surgically reproduce spinal cord injury with a minimum of pain and distress to the animals.  All procedures are performed under deep anesthesia and pain is minimized by use of analgesics.  Animals recover quickly and return to a state of otherwise good health, despite the injury;
  • Other research programs may lose as many as 60 to 70 percent of their animals during research. The rate of loss for Ohio State projects using this animal model never exceeds 2 percent. As more researchers adopt this standardized research technique in their studies, it is likely that the numbers of animals used may be reduced below the already low numbers currently used;
  • The program was approved by the university's Institutional Laboratory Animal Care and Use Committee and will be run in accord with both university guidelines and those of the National Institutes of Health. The federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare reviewed this training program and found that it followed all appropriate federal animal welfare requirements and regulations;
  • While substantial progress has been made using research methods involving tissue cultures, there is currently no adequate alternative to the use of laboratory animals in understanding completely the cellular damage following spinal cord injury, or the biochemical processes involved in the recovery from such injuries.
Each year, about 10,000 people in the US suffer a spinal cord injury. Some 250,000 Americans are confined to wheelchairs because of such injuries. These injuries bring a heavy familial, social and economic impact, as well as causing the victims immense physical and emotional suffering.
 
We are striving to find a remedy for this most devastating injury. Most victims are young and are destined to spend the rest of their nearly normal life span in wheel chairs. Paraplegics are unable walk, unable to control their bowel and bladder, and have severe blood pressure dysfunction. Quadriplegics face all of that and more including the inability to use their arms or hands, and often the ability to breath without assistance from a respirator. 
 
Spinal cord injuries happen in a moment, and change people's lives forever. It can happen to anyone through a car wreck, a diving accident, or a bullet wound.  Our sincerest hope is that we will succeed in finding a cure for this tragedy. By doing so, both animals and people will benefit. 

Ohio State University