Now even some of the scientists are realising that the EAE model is pretty much useless.
Targeting Multiple Sclerosis 04 September 2007
A Dr Hadwen Trust-funded pilot study at Imperial College, London, is investigating whether the application of a new molecular technique could replace animal experiments in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research. MS is a debilitating disease of the nervous system, affecting around 2.5 million people worldwide and with currently no cure. Animal experiments on guinea pigs, rabbits, monkeys and rodents have been of dubious value, artificially creating a condition that differs markedly from true MS.
Decades of animal experiments for MS have involved artificially inducing a condition called Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE) in animals in the hope of creating a ‘model’ of human MS. The animals suffer inflammation and damage to the nervous system resulting in paralysis, and in more recent examples EAE has also been studied in genetically modified mice, either ‘humanised’ by adding human genes or with genes ‘knocked out’.
These experiments not only cause animal suffering, but are also of questionable relevance to MS patients. The differences between human MS and EAE are significant, and despite more than 10,000 published experiments on animals with EAE, the human disease remains poorly understood, treatments are very limited and a cure remains elusive. Even worse, some neurology experts fear that reliance on the animal model has delayed MS research by years. For the sake of animals and people, more advanced non-animal approaches to studying MS are urgently needed.
The Dr Hadwen Trust is funding Professor Daniel Altmann to conduct a unique one year pilot study looking at a functional analysis of the T cell immune response in multiple sclerosis by gene silencing. Hallmark damage to the nervous system seen in MS is believed to be caused by the patient’s own immune system attacking and damaging the nerves. Patients’ immune cells can be obtained from blood samples and studied in culture. In this new project at Imperial College, a new molecular technique called RNA knockdown will be applied to immune cells from MS patients. Particular genes in the immune cells will be turned-off to see which ones are contributing to the immune responses that underlie MS. This is a completely new approach to MS research and if successful, it could replace experiments on genetically modified ‘knockout’ mice with induced EAE, who are currently used to investigate the contribution of immune system genes to MS.
Says Nicky Gordon, Dr Hadwen Trust:
“It’s clear that current so-called animal models for MS are not delivering the research results that we so desperately need to tackle this devastating disease. Animals don’t naturally suffer from MS, and the condition they are artificially made to suffer in the laboratory differs so significantly from real MS, it is little wonder that progress has been slow. There is an urgent need for scientists to revise their faith in the traditional animal techniques, and look instead to new possibilities opened up by non-animal methods. That’s why the Dr Hadwen Trust is funding this pilot study at Imperial College. It’s using a totally new technique that has never been applied to MS research before, but it shows real promise and we are confident that only by championing the very latest and experimental non-animal research, will we find the best ways to treat and cure diseases like MS.”
The Dr Hadwen Trust’s latest research project has been warmly welcomed by supporter, Fay Emerson, who has Multiple Sclerosis.
“I suffer from Multiple Sclerosis,” says Fay, “and I do not wish experiments to be carried out on animals ‘in my name’. This is because I believe research into my illness has been held back many years by this outdated and unreliable method. I support the non-animal methods which are promoted by the Dr Hadwen Trust which are more truly scientific than experimenting on a species which is very different from ours. It is not only more reliable to use other non-animal tests but also more humane. If more people knew the truth about the unreliability of animal experiments and the danger such methods put the human population in, they would not condone or allow them to continue.”
Source: Dr Hadwen Trust © Dr Hadwen Trust 2007 (04/09/07)