Terra Sigillata

I received a special missive this morning from the Foundation for Biomedical Research that reported the home of UCLA nicotine researcher, Dr Edie London, was vandalized/terrorized by a fire set to a “device” on her front porch. The story now appears at the Los Angeles Times:

London, a professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences and of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, uses lab monkeys in her research on nicotine addiction.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed that officials with the Joint Terrorism Task Force were investigating the incident. [Those with information are urged to contact the FBI at (310) 477-6565]

“It was ignited and caused damage to the property,” Eimiller said. “No one was home at the time and nobody was hurt.”

Sadly, this is the very same Dr Edythe London whose home was flooded back in October by a garden hose, causing $20,000 to $30,000 in damages. The Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for that incident, leaving a note warning of future attacks:

“Water was our second choice, fire was our first. We compromised because we in the ALF don’t risk harming animals human and non human and we don’t risk starting brush fires,” the statement read.

In response to this incident and others directed at her colleagues, London crafted an eloquent op-ed at for the 1 Nov 2007 LA Times entitled, “Why I use laboratory animals”:

I have devoted my career to understanding how nicotine, methamphetamine and other drugs can hijack brain chemistry and leave the affected individual at the mercy of his or her addiction. My personal connection to addiction is rooted in the untimely death of my father, who died of complications of nicotine dependence. My work on the neurobiology of addiction has spanned three decades of my life — most of this time as a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health. To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person’s control over his or her own life. Addiction robs young people of their futures, destroys families and places a tremendous burden on society.

Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans.

The essay is terrific and illustrates why an addiction researcher would risk her life and property to answer these scientific questions. The CDC Office on Smoking and Health estimated in 2004 that the total US economic costs of nicotine addiction were $150 billion. But the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (GDCADA) used information from Discovery Health to put the human costs of nicotine addiction in perspective:

“Every year, tobacco use kills more Americans than World War II and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more than 440,000 smoking-related deaths every year — the equivalent of three 747s being downed every day without any survivors.”

I am hardpressed to find an area of greater importance to the nation’s health and welfare than the focus of Dr London’s research.

Back in August we discussed the valuable service provided by the DC-based Foundation for Biomedical Research in educating the public about the need for animal research, the limits of computational and in vitro studies, the limits of ethical research on humans, and the protection of researchers from terrorists.

Our admiration and best wishes go out to Dr London.

Addendum: The story at UCLA’s campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin, can be found here.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul
    February 6, 2008

    These attacks on Dr. London cannot be tolerated, and hopefully the Feds will soon catch whoever is behind this terrorism.

    What would really show the cowards who carry out acts like this that they won’t be allowed to win is for students and staff at UCLA to rally in her support. Just like students in Oxford did when the ALF threatened and firebombed there http://www.pro-test.org.uk/index.php.

    Perhaps FBR or Americans for Medical Progress http://www.amprogress.org/ could help?

  2. #2 cv
    February 6, 2008

    The cowards at ucla will not rally to this professor for obvious reasons.

  3. #3 Greg
    February 6, 2008

    It’s abundantly clear by now that the “Animal” reference in Animal Liberation Front refers to its members, not its intended targets.

  4. #4 isles
    February 6, 2008

    I hope that the perpetrators of these attacks have the integrity to refuse any medical treatments that may be derived from animal experimentation.

  5. #5 Libertarian Girl
    February 6, 2008

    I saw some pictures once of monkeys forced to live in tubes and smoke cigarettes all day. Keep in mind that monkeys are the closest animal relatives to us, yet we experiment on them and on mice and not on, say, dogs or cats for what are probably purely sentimental reasons.

    What a life to give to our closest genetic relatives. This is the type of activity that allows fundamentalist evangelicals to say, “I’m not descended from a monkey! Humans are DIFFERENT from monkeys!” The inhumane treatment of monkeys provides persistent fuel for people with that sort of attitude.

    I wonder if this is the researcher in charge of those particular experiments?

    I do not support acts of this type, but research of that nature is cruel and unnecessary in many cases– perhaps for lifesaving treatments, but not on subjects like cigarette smoking, which are not completely medically necessary to save lives of people who don’t cause their own problems.

    A friend of mine once said that in all public squares, we should be erecting statues not of soldiers but of mice, for all the lifesaving medical research we now have from the millions of mice who have given their lives for us. I don’t think it’s a bad idea. At the very least, we should appreciate their contributions to science.

  6. #6 person
    February 7, 2008

    I am hardpressed to find an area of greater importance to the nation’s health and welfare than the focus of Dr London’s research.

    Really??? You can’t think of ANYTHING more important to the nation’s health and welfare off the top of your head???

  7. #7 trollanon
    February 7, 2008

    “I saw some pictures once of monkeys forced to live in tubes and smoke cigarettes all day.”

    LG: Given the very well established record of AR nuts in faking, staging and misrepresenting images supposed to be of animals engaged in “typical” research protocols, you should perhaps provide us some additional support.

    Where did you get these pictures? What is a “tube”? How do you know they had to “live in” them? How do you know that animals were smoking cigarettes “all day long”? and how do you know that they were “forced” to smoke?

    I ask because I can’t recall seeing a protocol like this in the scientific literature. Perhaps you can direct me to the right papers?

  8. #8 Libertarian Girl
    February 7, 2008

    The pictures were of actual research (I believe even published by the researchers in question), but I’m not sure where I saw them. I believe it was in a book. I’ll ask the person who showed it to me and try to find out what the exact study was.

    The tube was a tube just as large as the monkeys’ bodies, so the monkeys could not move a single centimetre if they’d wished to. The caption in the book said that the monkeys lived in them at all times, I admit that I cannot verify that that or anything else published in a book is true (it was not a book published by animal rights, though, I believe it was something along the lines of a science textbook used in a college class). Since the tubes were the exact size of the monkeys’ bodies, it would be very difficult to take them in and out. I’ll get back with any details I can glean from my friend.

  9. #9 ozzy
    February 8, 2008

    “The tube was a tube just as large as the monkeys’ bodies, so the monkeys could not move a single centimetre if they’d wished to. The caption in the book said that the monkeys lived in them at all times, I admit that I cannot verify that that or anything else published in a book is true..”

    Nowadays, I really don’t think you would be able to get a study like that past a animal care and use committee for just a study on cigarette smoking. My bet is (if it’s not fake) that it’s a picture from an experiment done in the 50s or 60s when animal welfare was not much of a concern.

  10. #10 Chad
    February 9, 2008

    I’ve only been doing research for about four years now (including undergrad research), but I have been at two institutions and worked with at least seven different species of vertebrates and invertebrates. Even with my very limited experience I know that university animal care committees don’t put up with any shit. If you are mistreating animals in any way they will be on your ass in a heartbeat and won’t let up until you have proven you’ve cleaned up your act. The mice I currently work with live damn good lives compared to their wild brothers and I’m glad to be a part of it.

  11. #11 Abel Pharmboy
    February 9, 2008

    LB, ozzy has a very good point – you’d never see anything like that today. In fact, Chad’s comment describes very accurately how vertebrate animal research is regulated today in the US.

    As an aside, it was a pleasure to meet you at the SBC and many thanks for reading and joining the discussion!

  12. #12 Jim
    February 11, 2008

    Nick Anthis has an interesting report on the British response to a similar campaign in Oxford.

    http://scienceblogs.com/scientificactivist/2008/02/oxonians_march_in_support_of_a.php

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