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Routing out phylogenic bias.

While stopping short of advocating affirmative action for invertebrates, a national Academy of Sciences committee recommends that funders of medical research stop favoring experiments on mammals. "The NIH [National Institutes of Health] should support promising research proposals in biomedicine and leave selection of the model [laboratory animal or system] to the insight of the investigator," the committee reports.

Laboratory animals are not necessarily best selected as direct analogs to human diseases, but as potential sources of information that can be generalized to the total body of biological knowledge, the committee states. It cites as examples work on the interactions between cells in development, in immune and inflammatory responses and in learning. "Models ... are found in protists, sponges, marine worms, cell and tissue culture systems of many taxa, and mathematical formulations," says the committee's report, "Models for Biomedical Research: A New Perspective." However, the committee concluded that nonmammalian organisms and cell and tissue cultures cannot entirely replace intact mammals in medical research.

The committee recommends that NIH consider setting up computerized data bases organized by biological principles to allow researchers access to findings on different species. Committee chairman Harold

J. Morowitz of Yale University cites the data bases of DNA and protein sequences already in operation. As another practical suggestion, Morowitz says that NIH should consider forming a special evaluation group to fund work on organisms not widely used in laboratory research. "Getting something new going is difficult," Morowitz says. "You have no peer group and not much support." The committee warns that "... present procedures for allocating resources may limit support to work on too few species."
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Title Annotation:using invertebrates as laboratory animals
Publication:Science News
Date:May 18, 1985
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