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Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance Asks: Did Canadians Ignore Own Lab Animal Welfare Rules?

McGill Mouse Pain Study Procedures, Ethics Blasted in Newsletter's Science Forum

NAPLES, Fla. -- Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance newsletter's online forum for scientists has overwhelmingly criticized a McGill university mouse pain research study as violating Canadian and other lab animal welfare regulations, guidelines and ethics.

The original study, described in a recent three-page scientific paper from Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, PhD, Canada Research Professor of Pain Genetics at McGill, and 18 co-authors, hoped to develop a scale of facial grimaces in mice that revealed how intensely the mouse "felt" various painful procedures. In the experiments numerous unanaesthetized mice were subjected to pain-producing manipulations. These included: injections of irritating substances into feet, ankles and abdomen, postsurgical pain without analgesics, and tail clamps and heating of tails. Cystitis was also induced using a drug method "which causes a painful cystitis in humans".

A press release which McGill issued the day the study was printed gained wide publication; it claimed progress classifying mouse pain grimaces. But, it described the pain to the unanesthetized mice as not worse than a headache, relievable with Tylenol or aspirin. It gave no details of the unrelieved actual pain administered the rodents. Media alerted by McGill's press release had virtually no time to probe the actual article, and discover the unalleviated pain which was caused the mice for lengthy periods of observation.

The formal report in the respected science research journal, Nature Methods, caught the attention of concerned readers of Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance, a new newsletter helping scientists who work with lab animals remain in compliance with rules and ethics of lab animal welfare.

Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance concluded the McGill research came dangerously close to, or went beyond, the borders of practices deemed acceptable by the Canadian rules governing research involving lab animals. (rules cited on Web site) Thus, it was decided to seek wider comments from the scientific research community by placing it in the "You Be the Judge" forum of the affiliated weekly e-magazine, Lab Animal e-Alert, plus the companion ezine circulated to leading researchers in all fields of science, P.I. e-Alert.

Within 72 hours, over 90 reader submissions were received. Some emotional comments cried out at perceived gross abuse of lab animals, but many responses from apparently serious (some eminent) researchers pointed out flaws in the study and actual deviations from written protocols and regulations which govern, and are supposed to protect, lab animal welfare in Canadian experiments.

Some readers also criticized McGill's Animal Care and Use Committee, which approved the study.

Rebuttals received from scientists in pain research defended the McGill experiments. The common theme was "It's no different from what everybody else does in pain research." Others maintained "The researcher is a nice guy, why pick on him", and "This forum provides an opening for extremists and sensationalism". Some demanded the forum be shut down.

The publisher, Leslie C. Norins, MD, PhD, said a preview copy of the article had been emailed to Dr. Mogil and the Principal (i.e. President) of McGill, (Dr. Heather Monroe-Blum) asking them to post their comments on these apparent violations of University and national policies. No official response has been received to this point. Nor has any response yet been received from the Canadian Council on Animal Care, which regulates all animal research in the country.

Opined Dr. Norins, a 34-year veteran science publisher for professional audiences, who is both a physician and a scientist, and who originally trained in research (using mice) with a Nobel Laureate: "Looks like McGill and Canadian officials who should have been on guard to prevent these probable violations are 'laying low', hoping this will all blow over."

Added Norins: "I'm not sure how these things are handled in Canada. I can't believe they will try to hush it up at the Prime Minister's level. So sounds like a Parliamentary inquiry, with witnesses from all perspectives, under oath, may be the only way to get to the bottom of this disturbing matter and head off repetitions. Canadian supervision and enforcement of lab animal welfare seems too lax."

Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance and its sister publication, Principal Investigator Advisor, are two monthly newsletters published, by subscription, on behalf of Principal Investigators Association, a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Naples, Florida, USA. A free review copy of the newsletters is available upon request.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 20, 2010
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