Astronauts carrying out cruel and pointless animal testing on space station
A group of mice were blasted into orbit this month to be used in a series of experiments at NASA’s International Space Centre.1 Sadly, the mice will not make it back to Earth alive.
Unfortunately, sending animals into space is nothing new. The first animal, a macaque monkey called Albert, was sent into orbit in 1949.
Since then many animals have been forced to follow, including various species of primates, dogs, rats, mice and frogs, many of whom have never returned.
However, astronauts are now not only going into space with other animals but are also experimenting on them when they are up there.
In a joint venture with US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, last week NASA sent a group of twenty mice into orbit from their launch site in Florida. They plan to use the mice to investigate the effects of long-term space travel on our muscles and bones.
Once the mice arrive at the space station, one group will be repeatedly injected with a drug, which is thought to slow down the rate of muscle wasting, while the other group will serve as ‘controls’.2 Over the course of six weeks, the mice will be monitored via a live video feed and forced to carry out tasks to test their muscle strength.
One task, known as the ‘grip strength test’, involves seeing how well mice can hold onto a metal net, usually while their tails are being pulled.
All of the animals will then be killed and dissected up in space before their body parts are sent back to Earth for further testing. The same experiment will also be conducted simultaneously on Earth and the results will be compared.
The researchers claim that this mission will benefit future astronauts and patients on Earth who suffer from muscle-wasting conditions such as motor neurone disease (known as ALS in the US).
The likelihood of this research translating into any meaningful treatment for humans is extremely low given the notoriously unreliable history of ALS experiments in animals including mice.
Over the past decade, approximately a dozen drugs have been tested on countless animals and reached clinical trials for ALS. Yet all of these drugs have failed in humans except for Riluzole, which only has minimal benefit.
The unreliable nature of using mice was demonstrated recently when researchers at the ALS Therapy Development Institute in America retested some of the drugs used in these failed clinical trials in mice again - and found that this time they also failed.3
Sending animals into space is cruel and totally unacceptable. Please write to NASA to call on them to end this cruelty
- Assessment of myostatin inhibition to prevent skeletal muscle atrophy and weakness in mice exposed to long-duration spaceflight (Rodent Research-3-Eli Lilly). (2016). NASA, 30 March: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1722.html
- A New Crew of ‘Mousetronauts’ Is About to Launch to the International Space Station. (2016). The Science Explorer, 07 April: http://thescienceexplorer.com/universe/new-crew-mousetronauts-about-launch-international-space-station
- Preclinical research: Make mouse studies work. (2014). Nature, 26 March: http://www.nature.com/news/preclinical-research-make-mouse-studies-work-1.14913