NIH to investigate Ohio State University spinal injury course

February 09, 2005

WASHINGTON--The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has notified the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) that it will investigate charges by PCRM that Ohio State University has violated federal animal welfare regulations as part of its controversial Spinal Cord Injury Techniques Training Course.

The investigation comes in response to PCRM's complaints that OSU ignored federal regulations requiring government-funded research institutions using animals to "minimize pain and distress" "minimize the number of animals used," and to "consider non-animal alternatives."

Nicknamed "Cruelty 101," the OSU spinal injury techniques course requires students to surgically expose the spinal cords of mice and rats--a technique known as laminectomy--and drop weights on them to simulate human spinal cord injuries. Over the course of the three-week class, the 269 injured mice and rats are subjected to additional surgeries, invasive laboratory procedures, and physically demanding behavioral exercises before they are killed. The course is funded in part by NIH.

The university states that the class teaches a 'standardized' methodology for inflicting spinal cord damage.

"These procedures are as unnecessary as they are cruel," says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. "Current spinal injury research using human neural cell lines, impact studies on human cadavers, and clinical trials, make the OSU course not only pointless, but redundant."

While rats and mice are not protected under the Animal Welfare Act, all laboratory animals are guaranteed some measure of protection under provisions of the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS).

In 2002, PCRM was instrumental in stopping NIH-funded experiments by OSU researcher Dr. Michael Podell, who infected cats with feline immunodeficiency virus and injected them with methamphetamine ("speed") in an attempt to create an animal model for HIV-positive humans using drugs.

Ohio State University received a grant from the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to fund the spinal cord injury techniques course over five years. The next class is scheduled July 15-20, 2005. This will be the third year OSU has offered this course. University officials have so far refused to meet with PCRM and local humane organizations to discuss their concerns about the course.
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Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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