The Corner

The Importance of Research on Monkeys

Animal rights activists, and others who don’t quite fit that label, such as Matthew Scully, excoriate scientists for conducting research on animals.

Some go so far as to call researchers sadistic, people who engage in torture, and other such calumnies. PETA animal rightists often lie by claiming no human good comes from such research.

But without research on monkeys, rats, and other animals,, so much human suffering would never be ameliorated, because sometimes, researchers just need to use a living animal before starting human experiments (as required by the Nuremberg Code and the Common Rule).

Here’s an important example of the power of research on monkeys to bring about tremendous human good. Scientists have demonstrated that paralysis caused by spinal cord injury might be overcome with brain implants. From the NPR story:

A few months ago, neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch emerged from a 10-hour surgery that she hadn’t done before. “Most of my patients are humans,” says Bloch, who works at the Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland. This patient was a rhesus macaque…

She placed electrodes in the part of the monkey’s brain that controls leg movement, and docked a wireless transmitter on the outside of his skull. Then, she put another set of electrodes along the spinal cord, below the injury. She also implanted an instrument in one leg so they could record muscle activity there.

Six days later, Bloch and her colleagues switched on a device to pick up signals from the electrodes in the monkey’s brain, pass them through a computer, and then send them to the electrodes in the spine. “In a few seconds you saw the leg moving, and that’s something that would not have happened naturally,” she says.

Without the procedure, it would’ve likely taken months before the leg was able to move at all, Bloch says. Within a few days, the monkey was back on its feet.

Understand, this necessarily involved severing the spinal cords of monkeys. That was not done to be cruel, but to bring great succor to humans.

Let us hope this research continues to success, and that people with such disabilities will soon be able, to bring in a very famous Bible quote, take up their pallet and walk!

But that and other such potential breakthroughs won’t happen if the pro-animal fanatics stifle robust and properly conducted animal research.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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