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Animal research cost of living on the rise

BY ANDREW POTOCKI | JULY 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa now pays more to care for animals used for research purposes on campus.

The 5 percent increase, which began Wednesday, is intended to help with food, water, and other expenses for the animals, said Heather Gipson, a UI assistant vice president for Research Compliance.

“This is a problem affecting many public universities, but the university doesn’t expect to see any large negative impact on the quantity and quality of its animal research,” she said.

Nancy Marks, the UI director of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, said 90 percent of animal research done at the university is done in the Carver College of Medicine. This includes testing the effectiveness of different drugs, medical devices, and tracking of certain diseases.

Marks said roughly 90 percent of animals used are mice, because they are small, reproduce quickly, and are easily genetically modifiable. There are anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 mice currently being used for research, she said.

Animal testing is necessary for any drug to receive Food & Drug Administration approval and be used by the public, Marks said. In fact, roughly 40 percent of research funded by the National Institutes of Health involves animal research.

Animal testing and researching is a controversial topic. Many people, such as Janet Ashman, the president of the Johnson County Humane Society, are against these practices.

Ashman said she doesn’t believe the non-human animal model is close enough to be very useful in a human context.

“There are plenty of alternatives to using non-human animals as subjects out there,” she said.

Marks said the UI explores research options other than live animals on a regular basis.

“We do try [research] methods other than animals,” she said. “As technology becomes more advanced, more methods are opened to us, and the university is very good at keeping up with the latest technology.”

People have become more aware of what’s in the products they buy and how they’re made, Ashman said.

“On the other hand, most of us have little information about how medical research works, from the funding to the use of subjects,” she said.

Marks said the UI tries to answer any questions people may have about how animals are used for research purposes. The university communicates with animal-rights activists and worried people in order to better hear the public’s concerns, she said.

Ashman said that despite her criticism of the practice of using animals as research subjects, she believes the UI does do a much better job than other places in taking care of the animals.

“We try to take good care of the animals, not just for their well-being, but also because it creates more accurate results if the animals are well taken care of,” Marks said. “Better care for the animals means better science.”


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