Controversial Even Among Researchers
The excerpt below is from the December 12, 2011, University of Wisconsin Graduate School Animal Care and Use Committee Closed Session Minutes (obtained through an Open Records Request). This committee is responsible for the approval of Kalin's project, "Effects of early expereince on the development of anxiety and its neural substrate."
These University documents reveal that senior research staff was alarmed that the University would approve the use of maternal deprivation.
These documents provide insight into just how controversial Kalin's methods actually are. The people discussing the project and raising questions about it are all veteran advocates of animal experimentation who see the harsh reality of the labs on a daily basis. Even they raised concerns.
The abbreviation PI below refers to "Principal Investigator," the scientist who will receive the federal funding. In this case, the PI is Ned Kalin. ACUC stands for Animal Care and Use Committee. NHP stands for Non-Human Primate. All emphasis is ours.
Dr. Lindstrom asked if there has been any discussion about the type of extreme experiments of this study. Dr. Krugner-Higby said yes, and said that she feels the creation of nursery-raised infant non-human primates (NHP) is severe because of what it can do to young animals. Dr. Capuano said this type of research continues to be carried out at other NHP research centers, but acknowledged that this type of research has not occurred at UW-Madison since the 1980s.
Dr. Lindstrom asked if this is an established animal model for this work, and asked if separation from the mothers could be half as long as is proposed. Dr. Krugner-Higby said the PI will say that his lab has gone as far as they can within "normal" anxiety range and the research needs to be carried out past that range. Dr. Capuano said that the PI is trying to compare mother-reared animals to nursery-reared animals at a specific developmental stage. He said that he is unsure if the ACUC has the right to tell a PI not to do their research because the research may cause harm. The ACUC frequently approves protocols that will have adverse effects on animals. Dr. Krugner-Higby said the difference is in other studies of pathogenesis (such as SIV) specific therapeutic or preventative endpoints can be identified and reached, but in these studies endpoints are less clear, noting the behavioral damage to the animals from this type of study is all ready well-known.
Dr. Krugner-Higby said that she has read both of the grants listed on this protocol and neither of the grants describe the creation of nursery-reared infants in the specific aims nor in the Vertebrate Animal Sections. She said PI knows that he will have to inform his program officers of this explicit proposal. Dr. Capuano said he believes that a new grant has been submitted to cover that aspect of work. Extensive discussion ensued.
It was noted that the PI is trying to learn what is different about the brains of young anxious NHPs in order to eventually develop therapies to treat anxious children and adults. Dr. Capuano said the PI over the past year has tested every NHP infant for the anxious phenotype to identify candidate animals for his work, and again stated he is not sure if the ACUC should question NIH-approved scientific research. Dr. Krugner-Higby noted the request for the creation of nursery-reared infants has not in fact been approved.
Dr. Smith noted that this study is basic science, but the hypotheses and goals are not clearly noted in the protocol. He added that the proposed deprivation is not necessarily troubling, but it is the fact that the PI has not explained it [the proposed deprivation] well in this protocol in terms he can understand. Dr. Lindstrom agreed. Ms. Boehm asked if these NHPs infants are purpose-bred, do the fathers of the infants need to be accounted for? Dr. Capuano will check with Dr. Welter.