Tag Archives: labs

WashU stops intubation training using cats, ending practice in US

Washington University in St. Louis said that it has stopped using sedated cats to train medical students how to insert breathing tubes down babies’ throats, effectively ending the practice in the U.S.

The university’s School of Medicine said in a statement that after a “significant investment” in its simulation center, it will now provide neonatal intubation training using only mannequins and advanced simulators, effective immediately.

The school said improvements in simulators made the change possible. Cats currently at the university are being adopted by employees of the medical center.

“In the 25-plus years the university has relied on cats in teaching this procedure, none was harmed during training,” the statement read.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a medical ethics nonprofit, applauded the decision, saying the practice was cruel to animals and unnecessary for students. The group said it was the last of the 198 U.S. pediatrics programs still using cats.

“The best way to teach emergency airway intervention is on human-relevant training methods. I commend Washington University for switching to modern methods,” said Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee.

Washington University’s use of cats has drawn criticism in recent years, with critics contending that the animals suffer pain and injuries ranging from cracked teeth to punctured lungs. Protests broke out in 2013 after an undercover video of the university’s training in pediatric advanced life support was released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The video shows a trainee putting tubes down the throat of a sedated cat, sometimes struggling to get it right. However, the medical school continued using sedated cats in other training programs prior to Monday’ announcement.

But university officials have said the lab consistently met federal Animal Welfare Act standards, including passing an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon after the PETA video.

Other teaching labs have used simulators for years, but Washington University previously cited research indicating that pediatric doctors in training only succeed in 20 percent to 35 percent of their initial attempts to intubate infants, justifying the need for animals in training.

The program previously used ferrets, too, but university spokeswoman Judy Martin said ferrets have not been used for many years.

48 labs rescued from alleged puppy mill in Wisconsin

Forty-eight Labrador Retrievers were rescued recently from an alleged puppy mill in western Wisconsin, according to a statement from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office arrested the owner, who faces charges of animal mistreatment and is accused of failing to adequately provide food and shelter for the animals.

News reports indicated that several dead dogs also were found on the property in Elmwood, Wisconsin.

Thirteen puppies and 35 adult dogs were taken to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley for medical treatment, according to the ASPCA.

A criminal investigation is ongoing.

Ignoring scientists and medical experts, Wisconsin Republicans push fetal tissue ban

Republican lawmakers sponsoring a bill to ban research on aborted fetal tissue in Wisconsin — a proposal medical groups oppose — said this week they were working on changes to protect work at the University of Wisconsin that uses existing cell lines.

University of Wisconsin researchers, the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Medical College of Wisconsin and a trade association representing biotech companies argue that the measure would outlaw current research into cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases, while putting millions of dollars in research funding and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.

“We must be careful that we do not create new state laws that depart from national standards and best practices and in doing so destroy our state’s biomedical research,” said Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health and vice chancellor for medical affairs, at a public hearing.

Federal law prohibits the commercial sale of fetal tissue, but allows not-for-profit donation of tissue with the consent of the woman who had an abortion.

The bill’s supporters — including more than 50 Republican lawmakers who have signed on to the measure — argue that the proposed restrictions are a reasonable limitation on scientific research. The bill would outlaw selling, donating and experimenting with cells, tissues, organs or other fetal body parts.

“We have an opportunity to set a high standard for the state of Wisconsin,” said the bill’s lead Assembly sponsor Rep. Andre Jacque, of De Pere, at the start of this week’s hearing that drew an overflow crowd.

Jacque and other backers say the bill is in reaction to recently released videos showing a Planned Parenthood medical director in southern California meeting with people posing as potential buyers of intact fetal specimens. Planned Parenthood says the payments discussed in the videos pertain to reimbursement for the costs of procuring the tissue, which is legal.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has said it does not offer tissue donation services, but Jacque said he wants to ensure it never can.

After the hearing, UW vice chancellor for research and graduate education Marsha Mailick issued a statement naming the four providers of fetal tissue to the university, saying they are expected to follow all regulations. However, Mailick said the university was working to determine whether one provider with ties to Planned Parenthood, Advanced Bioscience Resources, was meeting “all applicable standards.”

“We will not use any suppliers who are out of compliance,” she said.

Jacque, who introduced similar bills in 2011 and 2013, said he was working on changes to address concerns raised by UW and to ensure that the proposal is not struck down as unconstitutional, as has happened to similar laws in four other states.

Jacque said the bill will still allow “the broad array of scientific research to continue,” as long as it isn’t being done on fetal body parts obtained after 2010.

Golden said even with the exceptions Jacque is talking about, passing the bill would “immediately shut down much of the promising research” done with $76 million in federal grant funding at about 100 UW labs that employ more than 1,400 people.

Lisa Johnson, chief executive of BioForward, the trade organization for Wisconsin’s biotech industry, said potential new investors will also bypass Wisconsin if the bill becomes law.

Jacque said he didn’t believe researchers would lose their jobs if the ban were to pass and other ways of performing the research would be found.

The measure is on a fast track in the Assembly, with Speaker Robin Vos saying he plans to schedule a vote in September or October. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is still reviewing the measure and doesn’t know when senators will discuss it, said his spokeswoman Myranda Tanck.

Gov. Scott Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick issued a statement saying Walker, who is running for president, finds the videos of Planned Parenthood “disturbing and abhorrent.”

While the statement did not address the details of Jacque’s bill, Patrick said Walker “will work with members of the state Legislature to pass legislation to ban these practices in Wisconsin and address concerns” about Planned Parenthood. 

Scientists tackle mystery of thunderstorms that strike at night

Thunderstorms that form at night, without a prod from the Sun’s heat, are a mysterious phenomenon. This summer scientists will be staying up late in search of some answers.

From June 1-July 15, researchers from across North America will fan out each evening across the Great Plains, where storms are more common at night than during the day. The research effort, co-organized by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and several collaborating institutions, will use lab-equipped aircraft, ground-based instruments, and weather balloons to better understand the atmospheric conditions that lead to storm formation and evolution after sunset.

Their results may ultimately help improve forecasts of these sometimes damaging storms.

The Plains Elevated Convection at Night — PECAN — field campaign will involve scientists, students and support staff from eight research laboratories and 14 universities. The $13.5 million project is largely funded by the National Science Foundation, NCAR’s sponsor, which contributed $10.6 million. Additional support is provided by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Thunderstorms that form during the day are less puzzling than nighttime storms. The sun heats the Earth’s surface, which in turn, warms the air directly above the ground. When that warm air is forced to rise, it causes convection—a circulation of warm updrafts and cool downdrafts — and sometimes creates a storm.

The formation of thunderstorms at night, however, when the Sun is not baking the land, is less well understood.

“At night, the entire storm circulation is elevated higher off the ground,” said NCAR scientist Tammy Weckwerth, a PECAN principal investigator. “This makes observations of the conditions leading to nighttime thunderstorms much more challenging because that part of the atmosphere is not well covered by the network of instruments we normally rely on.”

The vast array of instruments available to PECAN researchers will allow them to collect data higher in the atmosphere. This data will help scientists characterize the conditions that lead both to individual storm formation as well as to the clustering and organizing of these storms into large-scale systems, which can drop significant precipitation.

“Nighttime thunderstorms are an essential source of summer rain for crops but are also a potential hazard through excessive rainfall, flash flooding, and dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning,” says Ed Bensman, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences.  “Weather forecast models often struggle to accurately account for this critical element of summer rainfall on the Great Plains.  The PECAN field campaign will provide researchers and operational forecasters with valuable insights into thunderstorms at night—and improve our ability to model them more accurately.”

The campaign, based in Hays, Kansas, will begin each day at 8 a.m., when a crew of forecasters starts developing a nightly forecast. At 3 p.m. the scientists will use the forecast to determine where across northern Oklahoma, central Kansas, or south-central Nebraska to deploy their mobile resources. Moving dozens of people around the Great Plains each night will be a challenge for PECAN, but it’s also what distinguishes it from past field projects.

“Previous severe weather campaigns have focused mostly on daytime storms, for largely practical reasons, as it is more difficult to set up instruments in the dark,” said Bart Geerts, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Wyoming and a PECAN principal investigator. “But the large thunderstorm complexes travelling across the Great Plains at night really are a different beast.”

Scientists believe that several interacting factors may contribute to nocturnal storm formation and maintenance: a stable layer of air at the surface; a strong wind current above that layer, known as a low-level jet; and atmospheric waves, some of which are called “bores,” that ripple out from the storms themselves. 

“But we just don’t really know how they interact,” Geerts said. “That’s what PECAN is about.”

A better understanding of these storms will have relevance for areas beyond the Great Plains. Clustered nighttime thunderstorms are common in various regions scattered across the globe.

PECAN will use three research aircraft, two of which — a University of Wyoming King Air and a NASA DC-8—will fly in the clear air away from the storms. Only the third, a NOAA P-3, which is widely used in hurricane research and reconnaissance, will be able to fly into the trailing region of storms.  

The researchers will also rely on a number of ground-based instrument suites, known as PECAN Integrated Sounding Arrays, or PISAs. Six of the PISAs will operate from fixed locations around the study area, and four will be mobile, allowing them to be repositioned each night depending on where storms are expected to form.

The instruments within each PISA vary, but collectively they will give each array the ability to measure temperature, moisture, and wind profiles, as well as launch weather balloons. Among the instruments are several newly developed at NCAR’s Earth Observing Laboratory, including one that uses an innovative laser-based technique to remotely measure water vapor and an advanced wind profiler.

Finally, the scientists will have a fleet of mobile and fixed radars, including the NCAR S-Pol. In all, PECAN researchers will have access to more than 100 instruments brought to the effort by partner institutions from across North America.

“The sheer number of instruments being coordinated is unprecedented,” said Weckwerth, who has participated in more than 15 other field expeditions.

The planning necessary to manage this large collection of instruments — from finding property suitable for a fixed radar to making sure the mobile instruments are out of harm’s way while tracking a storm — is being taken on by EOL’s Project Management Office. That team is also responsible for housing, food and other logistics for the scientists and students who are participating in the campaign.