A world-renowned German biomedical research institution has responded strongly to criticism from an activist group that has targeted one of its researchers.
Activist group Ärzte gegen Tierversuche (Doctors Against Animal Experiments) protested about the research of Prof. Gary Lewin and his team, at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, describing it as ‘absurd’.
MDC has now hit back with Martin Lohse, CEO of MDC, explaining that while criticism is part of science, personally defaming researchers is ‘unacceptable’.
“We carry out our research in the interest of the sick, the elderly and children – groups that do not have a sufficient lobby. Discovering and exploring new therapeutic options for them corresponds to both our state and social mission, ” Mr Lohse added.
Prof Lewin’s study of naked mole rats (and also Süddeutsche Zeitung) seeks to help protect the heart and brain of patients after infarction and stroke by studying how these animals survive in oxygen starved conditions.
The team put mole rats in pure nitrogen, with no oxygen at all. This kills mice in about a minute. People pass out after a breath or two of pure nitrogen, and would probably die in under 10 minutes. The naked mole rats, however, survived for at least 18 minutes. They stopped breathing after a few minutes, but their hearts kept beating and as soon as they were put back in normal air they revived.
Asked in an interview by Pro-Test Deutschland about how he reacted to criticism about animal research Prof Lewiin (pictured) said: “I try not to take attacks personally. However, if criticism is factually and technically advanced, we should take it seriously and offer a dialogue.
“The public has a right to information and we try to answer questions. However, the German animal protection laws are already very good and we have to overcome significant hurdles and comply with very high standards in order to obtain approval for our planned experiments.”
Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association, spoke further about its work: “As the largest science organization in Germany, the Helmholtz Association makes important contributions to the solution of urgent questions from society, science and industry.”
“In our health research area, we develop innovative diagnostic and treatment procedures for complex diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s for the benefit of many. Animal experiments are a necessary and indispensable part of many questions.
Our researchers always encounter animals with the highest ethical responsibility. For example, we carefully evaluate the scientific question before each experiment and clarify whether experiments on animals are really essential.
At a joint conference of the British animal welfare organization RSPCA and the MDC in the autumn of 2017, experts from all over Europe discussed how to reduce particularly stressful animal experiments in Europe. At the MDC in Berlin, only a fraction of the animal tests in 2016 fell under the category “heavy burden” (0.8 %)
“We believe the results of animal testing will enable us all to live longer and healthier lives. At the present time, we can only answer many questions with the help of animal experiments, “says Martin Lohse. “Not everyone shares our opinion. We have to accept that. But respectful interaction with each other is essential in this discussion. “