X-Message-Number: 7657
Subject: Re: Simians as test animals (was: SF story)
Date: Thu, 06 Feb 1997 13:54:26 -0600
From: Will Dye <>

In Cryonet #7650, Brent Fox <> writes:

> The use of a cow in your story does bring a question to my mind.
> Why are simians not used in testing perfusion methods, solutions, etc.?
> Is it the cost of the animal, or is it an attempt to avoid the "wrath"
> of animal rights groups? 
Both.  Also, they are dangerous to use, and nearly every primate except man
is in serious danger of going extinct.  The danger is even worse than the
raw numbers indicate, due to various factors I won't go into here.

Despite my conservative politics, I have strong ties to the animal rights
community (IMO, conservatism _conserves_, until overwhelming evidence
proves otherwise; I have never understood why that didn't cross over to the
issues of conserving species information or the bodies of dying people).
Anyway, I used to be on the board of directors of the Foundation for
Primate Research and Conservation.  My guess is that we are too politically
weak right now to stop such testing, but we would certainly put up a fight.

The key, I think, is to make it clear that research on primates is done
solely as a matter of absolute last resort.  At this stage, we can't
reliably revive rat hearts, so there isn't much benefit in scaling up to
pig hearts, much less whole chimpanzees.  It might be different if good
evidence emerged that rat hearts were irrelevant to human cyropreservation. 

You can do quite a bit with careful modelling and computer simulations
before ramping up to animal testing, and quite a bit on animals that are
not going extinct before doing final testing on primates.  In fact, I
believe that too often researchers use extensive animal testing as a lazy
way out.  More careful tissue study & modelling would give them better
results, but killing 300 rats with substance X and drawing the results on a
graph seems more like "doing work".  

The cosmetics industry complained loudly when the animal rights folk got on
their case, and I admit some of us did some stupid things along the way.  
But in the end some good ways were found to circumvent most (and in some
cases all) animal testing, and in at least some cases the overall safety
went _up_ not down, because a good tissue model is far better than sticking
something in a rabbit's eye and calling the substance "safe" if the rabbit
doesn't (quickly) go blind.

It's possible that we will discover a perfect CPA by freezing a billion
rats in the contents of a billion types of barbecue sauce.  I readily
acknowledge that the proporties of some of them are beyond the ken of
mortal man.  :-)  It's much more likely, however, that we'll find better
cryoprotectants by understanding what a cryoprotectant must do (like "be
able to pass through cell walls"), and finding cheap & reliable ways of
determining which chemicals have the desired properties.  

I reluctantly admit that animal testing is ultimately necessary, but please
make sure that it is a last resort, when modelling has already been
carefully done, and stick to the non-endangered species when possible.  


P.S.  Thanks much, Brent, for the feedback on my story.  I'll see if I can
keep the McDonalds thing.  No one complained about technical errors, so
I'll keep those, too.  

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