FOUR CASE STUDIES


Getting it in the neck - Baboon W205m

Imutran killed 50 young baboons, aged between two and four years. Baboons are higher primates - cousins of human beings. They were trapped and captured from the Kenyan savannah and transported to barren, windowless laboratories at Huntingdon Life Sciences - their light and air artificially regulated - they would never experience freedom again and facing certain death due to organ rejection, drug poisoning or opportunistic infections exploiting the animals' devastated immune system.

Six baboons had piglet hearts transplanted into their necks in early 1996 as Imutran vainly attempted to develop a successful anti-rejection treatment. Imutran had successfully obtained permission from the Home Office to perform these procedures on the basis that it 'considerably reduces technical difficulty' and may enable 'more efficient progress'. The Home Office classifies them as of merely 'moderate' severity.

The dosing commenced on the day before transplant. Cocktails of three to four potent immunosuppressive drugs force-fed by 'oral gavage'. On 5 February 1996 - W205m was sedated and anaesthetised. His neck was cut open and a transgenic piglet heart connected to his jugular vein and carotid artery. He was to spend the remainder of his short life in a stainless steel cage, approximately the size of a toilet cubicle, with a metal grid floor. Several times a day the back of the cage moves forward, trapping the primate against the front so it can be sedated and dosed. They have to do this to experiment on them - wild-caught baboons go crazy at the site of humans, never mind being slowly killed in an isolated laboratory.

By day 4, W205m's neck was swollen and the drugs are taking their toll - vomit is on the floor of the cage.

On day 11 things go from bad to worse, he's feeling very sick, despite his fear he is quiet and huddled, his neck swollen as the transplanted heart 'seems very large'. By day 12 he's unsteady despite being huddled in pain. Two days later the transplant is swollen, red, and seeping yellow fluid.

He endures this for several days. After three weeks, he's reluctant to move and showing 'obvious discomfort' and his jaw is swelling up. On the afternoon of day 21 he's finally put out of his misery with the grossly swollen transplant barely beating.

Another baboon, W201m, dies of a stroke after 2 days having suffered limb spasms and paralysis. Imutran subsequently described these experiments as "successful" in an application to the Home Office for permission for further experiments.

The Home Office response has ignored these particularly horrific experiments and failed to punish Imutran for not euthanasing animals as their suffering became more and more severe. Novartis have recommenced these procedures in the USA and Canada, where regulations are even more lax.

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Tragic incompetence

Huntingdon Life Sciences was the subject of controversy following undercover investigation in dog toxicology department, broadcast on Channel Four in March 1997. Two employees were convicted of animal cruelty and falsification of test data revealed.

The Government publicly threatened to revoke HLS' licence unless it satisfied 16 conditions designed to eradicate malpractice. But later in 1997, the commercial testing establishment was given a clean bill of health by the Home Office Inspectorate. However, no report or findings were published to substantiate this decision.

A year later, in the midst of Huntingdon's 'new order' monkey A178 was given a quadruple overdose of an immunosuppressive drug. Imutran complain to HLS:

"Frankly, I do not understand how this could occur as every step in the procedures is double-checked by a second person. I can only believe that the double check procedure is not in place or that it is not taken seriously by the people looking after Imutran's animals."

The episode involved a female cynomolgus monkey who had been transplanted with a transgenic pig kidney 29 days earlier on 23 November 1998. On the morning of 22 December - the day of the "drug administration error" - she was given the quadruple overdose. She died the following day.

According to HLS's own observations, this was her harrowing experience during the last two days of her life:

29am Quite subdued, liquid faeces, puffy around eyes.
29pm Alert but quiet and huddled, puffy around eyes, appears inactive.
30am Huddled on perch, head raised only when stimulated, face swollen especially around eyes, eyelids nearly closed, unsteady on perch, does not move when stimulated.
30pm Noted prior to sedation: Very quiet, unsteady, body tremors, grinding teeth. Sedated and euthanased.

HLS were appropriately abject and unequivocal in their apology, confessing to Imutran:

"We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the recent errors that have taken place at Huntingdon during the ongoing Xenotransplantation work. There are no excuses that can be made for the failure of individuals to follow the operating procedures that have been set down to ensure the smooth conduct of studies.

"We would like to end by re-iterating apologies both from a personal viewpoint and from the viewpoint of the Company, and hope that the changes recently instituted will provide the necessary trained resource to meet your expectations."

The improvements referred to consisted of "significant changes in the management structure and operating reporting lines".

However, such changes were supposed to have been instituted by HLS 16 months earlier as part of the 16 Home Office conditions for retaining the establishment's Certificate of Designation. The Government has consistently maintained that there have been no further problems at Huntingdon, and the Home Office review tries to place responsibility for this mistake with Imutran, while downplaying the animal welfare consequences and side-stepping the question of regulatory breaches.

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Torment concealed by officials

In a report to the Home Office (see document CY18), an Imutran researcher tells an Inspector that an anaesthetic drug was prescribed at 'very high doses' to two monkeys, leading to their deaths.

The clinical signs [for study IAN009] reveal that one of those primates, Y148f, was found unresponsive and lying on the cage floor on the morning following transplant - she was then destroyed. Blood was noted around Y256m's penis and scrotum on his first day post-transplant. For the next three days he must have made a pitiful spectacle: slumped against the front of the cage, drifting in and out of consciousness, his turmoil punctuated by bouts of vomiting and salivation. He was finally killed on the fourth afternoon after transplant.

Government response? No punishment for these disastrous mistakes, then a desperate attempt to exonerate Imutran from blame while the true facts remained injuncted. The Chief Inspector claimed that the doses were 'normal' and that the horrendous fate of these animals was due to other causes. However, the confidential documents explicitly reveal that Imutran themselves admit to the Home Office that the "very high doses resulted in the animals being over sedated which ultimately lead to a failure to recover from anaesthesia and their euthanasia."

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"The full monty" - ministers economical with the truth

This was the tasteless nickname - apparently in reference to the large number of immunosuppressants plus the removal of the monkeys' spleens - given to one of the major studies conducted by Imutran that involved the transplant of pig kidneys into the abdomens of macaque monkeys.

Monkey A475m had arrived in Britain from a breeding establishment in the Philippines in August 1998. He was part of a consignment of 33 monkeys. Three of his fellow travellers were found dead with blood oozing from their nostrils en route at Paris airport. The journey had already taken 35 hours by then. For that time, the monkeys had been squeezed into crates too small for them to stand, turn and lie down in a natural manner - a fundamental breach of international air transport regulations. The dead animals had been found in crates with ventilation only on two sides - regulations stipulate that crates must have ventilation on at least three sides. In their internal deliberations, Imutran and the Home Office admit: "the crates did NOT comply with the regulations" (emphasis in original).

In a subsequent statement to Parliament, Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien omitted to mention these breaches. The journey to Huntingdon took a total of 50 hours - Imutran had claimed it was likely to take only 30 hours. The Home Office review does not even refer to this incident in its report on Imutran' s compliance with regulations.

An Imutran manager sums up his investigation into these deaths with this statement:

"As far as we are concerned I believe this to be the last we should hear on this matter, please note that throughout this investigation I have orchestrated it such that Imutran are entirely anonymous."

It hasn't quite worked out as they had hoped.

Monkey A475m was finally transplanted in spring 1999. By day 3 his abdomen was noted to be swollen. Two days later he was vomiting food bile and liquid. On the morning of his death after 9 days, he was observed lying on the cage floor with yellow discharge from his nose.

Over 50% of the transplants in the Full Monty were deemed 'technical failures', forcing Imutran managers to halt the research in order to investigate why, yet again, their research was going so disastrously wrong.

Uncaged Campaigns, 20 April 2003

 

Cynomolgus monkey (macaca fascicularis)
Credit: Mike Tourist

"Imutran killed 50 young baboons, aged between two and four years."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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