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Charles River Laboratories, Inc. Animal testing Animal rights Animal welfare. However, the experiments performed on the rats in the Yu et al. This should not have been published. The second, huge problem with this particular rat model is that such treatments do not induce depression. Instead, they induce extreme stress. I can only imagine the fear that these animals must have felt when they heard the door of the animal facility open.
The extreme physical and neurological demands and anxiety induced in these animals are very different than the persistent sadness and loss of interest that are associated with human depression. So the findings of these experiments will have very little, if any, value for patients diagnosed with depression. The third flaw with this paper is that it does not make much sense to test the effect of depression on the fecal composition in an animal model.
Instead, the authors could have studied stool samples from human depression patients and compared these to stool from healthy controls. Taking these concerns together, this study used disproportionally inhumane animal suffering to study something that has no value for human health, and that could have easily been performed in humans. I would like to call upon the Editorial Board of the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis , and Elsevier, the publisher, to consider to retract this paper.
Studies that include torturing of animals without any scientific reason should not be published. I also very much hope that both editors and peer reviewers will be on the lookout for manuscripts that include this or other similarly awful type of animal experiments. Thresholds of the amount of acceptable animal suffering clearly differ from country to country. During my searches for image manipulations, I have regularly seen experiments in which live mice are dipped in boiling water, sewn together, or allowed to walk around with tumors as big as their own body.
An approval by an institutional committee does not necessarily mean that peer reviewers and editors should find such animal experiments acceptable too.
We can and have to push back on useless studies where the amount of animal suffering goes much beyond what is acceptable in the name of science. Note: Retraction Watch has contacted the corresponding author of the paper, as well as the publisher of the journal, Elsevier, who told us the handling editor is looking into the matter. Like Retraction Watch?
It would have been accepted in a high impact journal, fit very well with the current zeitgeist and received a good reception from the microbiomics community. But it would have most likely been interpreted as bad microbiome causing depression. This could have led to a protracted, expensive and ultimately futile effort to fix the microbiome to cure depression. The correlation study which can be done without animals should be a necessary prerequisite for the animal study. That is not a solution. Unfortunately, these authors only learned from the best.
The horrific picture of a rat coming out of its own calcified skin was not perceived as cruelty; on the contrary, it was a major scientific breakthrough. Not clear, though, if all that animal suffering was for any benefit to very rare human patients with calciphylaxis. I have served for years on our institutional animal welfare committee and occasionally we deal with protocols that use animal models of depression, which make use of procedures such as forced swimming in warm water!
All of these protocols receive extensive scrutiny and have to be backed up by a strong scientific rationale. Procedures like the ones described in Yu et al would have zero chance of being approved. Ethical use of animals in research requires a judgement of the balance between the harms done to the animals and the benefits accruing from the research.
On a practical note, journals simply cannot review the judgements of every ethics committee for every piece of work. The techniques used here are used not infrequently to model certain aspects of human diseases including aspects of depression. Of course, depression is a human disease and so a model can only ever be a model, but they can be instructive none the less.