AR-News: Primate research has contributed nothing
rumsiki at netvision.net.il
Wed Oct 1 19:54:53 EDT 2003
From: primfocus at waste.org
Doctor's diary: monkey business
Dr James Le Fanu on why primate research is cruel and unproductive
The current controversy over the proposal to open a primate research
laboratory in Cambridge has attracted the hostility not only of the usual
suspects. The letters page of last Tuesday's edition of this paper revealed
the objections of a coalition of scientists, researchers and neurologists.
The central problem is that, despite more than 100 years of research,
scientists have come to realise that they have no grasp of how the brain
really works. Clever chemists, to be sure, have identified dozens of
neuro-transmitters, and sophisticated brain scanners can delineate with
great accuracy which part of the brain does what.
But the practicality of how we memorise something as simple as a telephone
number or how we perceive the world around us remains completely elusive.
The brain now appears so profoundly complex, mysterious and inscrutable as
to defy human understanding.
This is all very frustrating for young scientists whose jobs depend on them
doing something to convey the impression that their research is useful. So
they end up doing terrible things to our beautiful primate cousins under the
guise of finding the cure for some disease or other.
Primate research has contributed nothing to the development of treatments
for stroke, but this does not discourage researchers from continuing to
damage monkeys' brains to see what effects this might have on their ability
to carry out certain tasks.
Similarly, it is absurd to suppose that the enigmas of diseases such as
Alzheimer's or Parkinson's might be resolved by primate experiments, because
their brains are so qualitatively different from our own. Indeed, as
Professor Claude Reiss and his fellow signatories point out, the proposed
primate research centre will not just cause yet further distress to monkeys.
It will also divert attention and resources from more creative and useful
lines of research.
We don't hear so much about the dreaded body odour these days, thanks, no
doubt, to the near universality of baths and washing machines. The
embarrassing condition now afflicts only those with excessively sweaty
armpits whose distinctive smell leaves them vulnerable to unkind gossip
about their personal hygiene.
Currently, surgery offers the only possibility of a cure - either by cutting
the nerves to the sweat glands in the armpits or by excising the skin
altogether. This is, however, yet another condition that should be treatable
with Botox injections, which abolish the wrinkles of advancing middle age.
Botox paralyses the nerve to the sweat glands.
The first long-term study of its effectiveness in nearly 200 patients whose
sweaty armpits "impaired their daily lives" revealed a marked improvement in
96 per cent. This sounds pretty impressive, although the effect lasts for
only seven months before having to be repeated.
There is apparently an "easy solution" to the intestinal rumblings or
borborygmi that Mr SM from Petersfield finds so difficult to cope with. A
lady from Kent recommends the naturopathic remedy Calc.phos 6 (available
from health food shops).
There is, however, a warning from another reader that when borborygmi are
associated with colicky abdominal pains, this suggests that the bowel is
trying to overcome some obstruction to the onward movement of its contents.
This could be a tumour, which clearly needs to be sorted out.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of handy hints for bowel disorders of a
different kind. The first is for the inflammatory condition colitis and its
debilitating episodes of diarrhoea. "By chance, I have come to realise that
a couple of glasses of red wine taken immediately after an attack of
diarrhoea are very restorative," says a lady from Kent, "and help set me
back on an even keel."
The second hint concerns Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for which a gentleman
from south London was advised to eat a bowlful of All Bran every day. This
reputedly improves the functioning of the bowel by exercising it with a
large-volume stool. The All Bran did not seem to make much difference until,
one morning, he ran out of milk and decided to add hot water instead.
"I accidentally added too much and so had to drink the mixture," he writes,
"with dramatic results." He has continued with this regime and "has never
really suffered from constipation or diarrhoea since".
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