Why was University of South Carolina researcher given $824,000 over four years to prove that rats can get hooked?
COLUMBIA, South Carolina––“This is the kind of thing that gives people like me nightmares,” Stop Animal Exploitation Now executive director Michael Budkie told media.
Budkie was discussing recent rodent experiments at the University of South Carolina, not the doggerel the experiments inspired, but the doggerel tells most of the story, except that the National Institutes of Health has awarded four grants in four years totaling $824,000 to the assistant professor whose work is described, including $248,216 in 2022 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse––and this assistant professor’s name has not been released.
Three pointless studies
What taxpayers got for all that money appears to have been little more than a song and dance:
Six necrotic mice. Six necrotic mice. They were injected with nanoparticles To inform the researcher’s articles. He cut off their tails with a carving knife. But each mouse eventually lost his life. Six necrotic mice.
Then two rats got gavage down the throat. The researcher did it until they choked. One rat died & the other was killed. The NIH was sent the bill. Then the rats were dissected upon a slab In a South Carolina University lab. Six coke-addicted rats. Six coke-addicted rats. See how their noses run. See how their noses run. They all were given electroshock By a researcher who didn’t watch the clock. He shocked the rats until they shat. Now his study is stopped & that is that.
Unauthorized nanoparticle experiments were stopped, but the money spigot was not
“Correspondence with the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare says unauthorized procedures were performed on mice as part of a project funded by the National Institutes of Health in November 2022,” reported Amanda Shaw of WIS, a Fox affiliate in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Six mice on a breeding-only protocol were injected with nanoparticles as part of an experimental procedure.,” Shaw explained. “The mice had to have their tails amputated after they suffered unexpected necrosis, which may have been caused by the injections.
“The Office of Research Compliance said the researcher cannot use the compound that was injected into the mice any more unless a plan to prevent tail necrosis is approved by the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee,” Shaw said.
Study proves that choking rats kills them
Investigation by Stop Animal Exploitation Now into this and other rodent experiments at the University of South Carolina also flushed out a report from the university to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare about an unrelated experiment in which “two rats had breathing issues after they were administered an oral gavage treatment in February 2023,” Shaw recounted.
“The Department of Laboratory Animal Resources instructed the investigator on the project to euthanize the two rats,” Shaw added. “One rat died before she could be euthanized, but the other was not euthanized until a day later, the report says.”
Electroshocking coke-addicted rats
The real shocker, though, Shaw explained, was that in November 2022, “The university received an anonymous complaint about a research project conducted by the psychology department that involved shocking the foot of rats who were also administered cocaine. The project is aimed at understanding the effects of drug addiction on the brain and why many addicts continue to use substances despite the negative consequences.”
The University of South Carolina “investigation into the complaint,” Shaw recounted, “revealed that protocols approved by their Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee were violated, although a spokesperson said the procedures were within generally-accepted research practices.
“The electroshocks were administered for longer than approved,” Shaw said, “according to a letter from the University of South Carolina director of research compliance to the federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.”
This experiment was suspended after reports about it reached the public.
A failed approach as old as God’s dog, or at least Pavlov’s
Some perspective may be in order. Very likely most businesses that store, process, prepare, or serve food are responsible for more rodent deaths over any given three-month time span than those described by Shaw and Stop Animal Exploitation Now, based on the University of South Carolina’s own paperwork filings with federal agencies.
But taxpayers are not funding food industry exterminators. And unless someone is proposing to treat cocaine addiction by shocking addicts on the soles of their feet, an approach similar to others which have been tried since the days of the Russian vivisector Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), and found ineffective in treating any addiction, it is difficult to imagine a practical application for findings that some rodents, like many people, compulsively persist in doing things that hurt them, or even for findings about how those specific brain circuits work.
Institutional addictive pathology
After all, we already know that addicts’ brain circuits do not work normally, are impaired in a wide variety of ways, and that brain disruptions associated with addiction may have been caused by traumas, both mental and physical, as varied as are addicted individuals.
The laboratory shrinks at the University of South Carolina might more usefully study why the National Institutes of Health continues to pay for researchers’ rodent torture and cocaine purchases, even though more than seventy years of similar studies done by thousands of academics at hundreds of institutions have yet to produce any data visibly helping to reduce drug and alcohol abuse.
If the National Institutes of Health, and especially the National Institute on Drug Abuse, were an individual instead of an institution, this pattern of behavior would surely be recognized as pathological in itself.