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Elliot Rabinowitz's picture

Animal Reserach...

Many important and interesting points/questions have already been brought up that I would like to touch on. First off, I think it’s important to note that like many others, I too have worked with animals in a research setting. My first experience was this past summer with mice in a malaria lab, and now I work with mice for my biology senior thesis work. As many have made clear, I think it is crucial to not become completely unaffected by one’s use of animals in research. At the beginning of the year, my lab’s very first lab meeting was about using animals in research: what it means, our previous experience, and how it makes us feel. Keeping these ideas in mind throughout the year has really made a difference for me. I never like sacrificing mice, but hope it is ultimately for a good cause. Also, starting off the year with this mindset has made us all work closer together – we try to minimize the number of mice we have to sacrifice by coordinating who needs cells and when. While this doesn’t necessarily address the basic ethical issues of exploiting animals in research, I think it at least helps me keep an active consciousness about my work and stay continually aware about the animals I use.


The Blue Brain project is absolutely fascinating. I cannot even imagine the work that must be needed to go into creating a functional computer-based brain. However, while I can envision how it may eventually prove incredibly useful in the future as far as scientific research is conducted, I think it has certain unsolvable limitations. It is still going to be a while until it is completed. I would also suspect that when it is finished, ordering one would be quite expensive. And then even if or when we get to that point, its usefulness is limited by how well we can create the program and its software applications (e.g. would researchers buy software that mimics specific drugs in the system or creates lesions or initiates cancers?). I do not mean to make it sound like this is not a worthy endeavor, but it is just so complicated that I think working with animals will always have its value. No matter how perfect this Blue Brain project is ultimately created, there will always be surprises that I think can be discovered and studied in animal research that simply cannot be done on a computational level. Therefore, as Amelia brought up, it is important to realize that there is, and never will be, only one way to do research. Every method or technique will have specific concerns and limitations, but also specific advantages and rewards unattainable by the other methods.


I suspect that reconciling the issues surrounding the use of animals in research will never end. But I think that’s probably a good thing – it keeps us (the researchers) as well as the general public aware of important ethical standards and how we should (and do) treat animals. The debate will and must continue in order for scientific progress to be kept in check. Finding that “line” of what is OK and what is not will always be difficult, but hopefully for the improvement of all animals and scientific progress alike.


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