Gooood morning, Santiiiiago!I love my blogs and my readers. Last Friday morning, I had the delight of Skyping in to a medical school bioethics class at Universidad Finis Terrae to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of animal research. I was contacted earlier in the week by an email from Xaviera Cardenas, a first-year medical student at this university in Santiago, Chile, who was looking for an international scientist to hold forth on this topic. Readers of CENtral Science know that any novel chemical you synthesize must undergo some animal testing before it can be used in people. This is not our choice as individuals but, instead, a requirement of our regulatory authorities. Despite advances with in vitro technologies, testing in a limited number of rodent and non-rodent species is absolutely required. I spoke specifically to the class about my service on NIH study sections where we take very seriously the review of vertebrate animal use in research. No matter the quality of the science, grant awards can be specifically withheld due to inattention to the five requirements to justify and assure responsible and humane use of vertebrate animals for research and testing. I'm a real stickler for use of the minimum number of animals, a number that is carefully determined using power calculations based on the minimum expected change in a biological outcome. Researchers must assure that animals will be managed by a highly-qualified veterinarian with attention to avoiding or minimizing any pain and suffering. Because research animals cannot give informed consent, I sometimes see research animal protocols getting more scrutiny that human clinical trial protocols. Xavi and her class asked me about these and other issues during our 20 minute visit last week. Her professor played the role of devil's advocate by dressing up as a beagle but, unfortunately, a photograph was not made available to the blog. I asked Xavi to share her recollections on the experience. She's very kind and her English is definitely superior to my Spanish. Thanks, Xavi, for the chance to speak with your class. And don't worry, I'll be down sometime to experience the wines of Chile!
The power of internet Xaviera Cardenas Has anyone thought how can you be in two places at the same time? It sounds perfect for a sci-fi novel implying teleportation… or evil twins. But last Friday, David was able to comfortable be in his house and at a presentation in Santiago, Chile without stepping on a plane. That Friday morning was pretty hectic for most of the students who were at the Bioethics class imparted by Universidad Finis Terrae. It was our final class in which we had to introduce a topic according to what we all studied. My group and I, as the hardworking medicine students that we are (or want to be) came up with a terrific idea: having an international guest. I mean, why not? What could possibly go wrong? We had to prepare ourselves accordingly, create a schedule and also gather around information. And for being honest, if it wasn’t for this blog we would have never known about this kind and good-willed man. There he was, connected by Skype to our presentation just as he said he would be patient, letting the other speakers to end. The topics were varied, from animal use on experiments (hence the use of the Beagle dressed teacher), transgenic food, organ transplants to euthanasia and medic-patient relationship. The presentation through Skype concerning animal use on experiments was a total success; our classmates and teachers had a blast and also understood our point: investigations with animals shouldn’t be despised because what people don’t know is that scientists do care about their laboratory animals’ welfare. Finally, I want to thank Dr. David Kroll for his time and for being so nice =) Here’s a picture I took from my notebook, it just shows a few of us, Xaviera Cardenas Chile