Friday, November 27, 2009

Rats Die That Premature Babies Might Live

There are two themes in animal rights activism involving medical research. One has integrity. It states that even though we receive clear benefits from animal experimentation it shouldn't be done for ethical reasons. I disagree with that, but it is a moral argument that can be respectfully engaged.

Then there is the mendacity--that not only do humans receive no benefit from animal research, but it actually causes us harm. Unless one is totally blinded by ideological zeal, this meme is untenable from a factual perspective. And now, here's another story illustrating the benefit we receive from animal experimentation. Rats have shown that adult stem cell research may be able to save the lives of prematurely born babies. From the story in Science Daily:
An international team of scientists led by Dr. Thébaud has demonstrated for the first time that stem cells protect and repair the lungs of newborn rats. "The really exciting thing that we discovered was that stem cells are like little factories, pumping out healing factors," says Dr. Thébaud, an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Clinical Scholar. "That healing liquid seems to boost the power of the healthy lung cells and helps them to repair the lungs." In this study, Thébaud's team simulated the conditions of prematurity -- giving the newborn rats oxygen. The scientists then took stem cells, derived from bone marrow, and injected them into the rats' airways. Two weeks later, the rats treated with stem cells were able to run twice as far, and had better survival rates. When Thébaud's team looked at the lungs, they found the stem cells had repaired the lungs, and prevented further damage.
Rats died that premature babies might one day live. That's a fair trade any way you look at it.

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