NWABR Bioethics, Day 4


A rat from our “research” study

Today we started out at Amgen in Seattle, talking very specifically about NWABR’s research in animals topic.  This topic was specifically focused on the ethics of Animal Research.  We began with the thought “How can we talk about difficult issues in a civilized manner?”  We then learned about the different ways that animals are currently killed in the United States.  94% of animals are killed for food purposes.  4% of animals are roadkill.  .1% of animals are euthanized in shelters.  2% of animals are killed by hunting.  .3% of animals are used in laboratory research.

Most of the research being done uses mice- 90% of all animal research.  One of the fastest growing animal groups being used in research is zebra fish.  All of this information is very interesting, and will lead to great conversations in regards to animals in research.  I personally believe animals are an important aspect of research, as they server as models, leading to treatments for both humans and animals alike.  There are institutional boards for the care of animals and research, to minimize risks.

In the afternoon, we went to the Veteran’s Administration Puget Sound Health Care System Animal Research facility.  There, we met Dr. Cindy Pekow, one of the Veterinarians that deals with the well-being of the facility’s animals.  Cindy gave us an overview of her work, and lead us through the role of her job.  Many of the animals that the VA is interested in testing are related to diseases and conditions that primarily affect the VA population.  This population tends to be older, white males.

We were given a presentation by Dr. Jeanna Wheeler, with a focus of Alzheimer’s.  Jeanna works with both C. elegans and mice.  Jeanna’s research was very interesting, talking about the tau protein abnormalities, as well as the accumulation of beta-amyloid.


Animal conditions in a testing facility

We then were able to tour the animal research facility.  We started by talking about the signs of healthy animals.  Healthy animals are essential for the tests, to control for fewer variables.  The veternarians and vet technicians check-in on each animal daily.  At present, that location only has mice and rats in their tests.  We were each given a rat, and told to check the animal’s health.  We were taught basic techniques of how you would ensure the well-being on the animals.  We were then shown how a simple experiment might look.


Conducting our observation of the rat interaction with a substance (chocolate)

After touring the facility, we were given a presentation by Dr. J. Ernie Blevins about leptin and oxytocin in weight loss.  The results from this study seemed very interesting, although it was quite a bit above my head.  Basically, the talk was about the leptin pathway, and the role of oxytocin in weight regulation, specifically in weight management.  Parts of the hindbrain have oxytocin receptors, which seem to be amplified by the leptin response, to a certain extent.   We ended the day reflecting on the day’s material and how we would incorporate it into our classrooms.