Animal Aid

Bristol University picketed for 'perversely cruel and medically useless' GM mouse experiments

Posted 26 February 2013
  • Animal Aid brands Bristol University pain research programme ‘perversely cruel and medically useless’
  • Genetically modified mice have nerves in their legs severed, tied or crushed, leaving them hypersensitive to pain
  • Other mice have active ingredient of chili pepper injected into their cheeks
  • Evidence shows that ‘reprogrammed’ rodents fail as models for human disease
  • For every GM mouse used in an experiment, hundreds more die or are killed

A Reality TV roadshow is coming to Bristol on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th February to expose a long-running series of experiments on genetically modified mice conducted at Bristol University.

Centerpiece of the two-day Animal Aid visit is a converted ambulance emblazoned with stark protest imagery and messages. A three-minute film, which includes footage of a variety of GM mouse experiments, will be screened continuously from the side of the vehicle. The ambulance will be stopping at numerous locations around the city and the university, reaching as many residents and students as possible. The protest marks the start of a determined campaign with a simple objective – to bring an end to the experiments.

Bristol researchers have created strains of mice with either genes added or ‘knocked out’ as part of a programme to understand the mechanics of pain perception. In subsequent experiments, dozens of mice have had the nerves in their back legs crushed, severed or tied, leaving them hypersensitive to any painful stimulus.

The Bristol research team has yet to produce any new treatments for patients, even though it has received generous public and other funding for 15 years. Animal Aid’s Briefing sets out why its experiments can never produce reliable insights into the kind of neuropathic pain experienced by patients with conditions such as cancer, diabetes and post viral syndromes. Not only is the source of this human suffering very different from the kind of peripheral nerve injuries inflicted in the Bristol research, but mice (GM or otherwise) and people are fundamentally dissimilar genetically and physiologically.

The lack of relevance, however, has not held back the Bristol researchers. After subjecting the mice to nerve damage surgery, they poked their hypersensitive back paws repeatedly with fine wires, or injected them with formalin – a highly irritant corrosive liquid. Other mice were injected with substances that cause violent itching, or had the active ingredient of chili pepper injected into their cheeks.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that thousands of animals have been bred for the Bristol programme, though most are destroyed as ‘surplus’ or as ‘failures’.

The Bristol protest comes in the wake of the publication earlier this month of a landmark new Animal Aid report called Science Corrupted: the nightmare world of GM mice. Drawn from mouse researchers’ own papers published in scientific journals, the report concludes that the UK-wide research programme to tackle major human diseases by breeding and experimenting on genetically modified mice has become ‘frenzied, scientifically irrational and terrifyingly cruel’.

Says Animal Aid’s Scientific Consultant, Dr Adrian Stallwood:

‘Many of the Bristol experiments involve manifestly cruel physical and psychological torments, and all to no purpose. Using GM mice to mimic human disease, whether at Bristol or any other research centre, is not delivering meaningful healthcare advances. This peculiar science continues to lead to ineffective drugs, disastrous clinical trials, and the dashing of the elevated hopes of thousands of patients and their carers.’

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