US: Students want uni to stop breeding dogs with muscular disease

Two Texas A&M University students have started an online petition to demand a research project studying muscular dystrophy’s debilitating effects in golden retrievers to be stopped.

For the experiment, the dogs are bred with types of muscular dystrophy (MD), a group of diseases that ravages and wastes muscle mass, according to the New York Post. This includes a particularly severe form of the disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), which causes muscle to progressively waste and grow weaker.

“I applaud Texas A&M’s goal of helping to find a cure for MD in humans. But funding studies in dogs is a misguided effort that wastes precious time and money. Despite decades of testing, these studies have failed to produce a cure or even an effective intervention for MD in humans,” wrote the petition letter, which has since garnered 250,545 as at the time of writing.

The project, led by one Joe Kornegay, bred dogs with the DMD gene, which are then kept in small barred cages, according to the petition.

New York Post cites People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)’s investigation into the matter which found researchers had stretched dogs’ muscles with levers to induce mechanical damage. Some dogs suffered a shift in their hind limbs and not being able to open their mouths.

PETA’s protest over the research has started since years ago, when an anonymous worker in the laboratory had sent photos and videos of disabled dogs to the animal rights group.

The animal rights group’s investigation last year managed to get corroborating evidence from the university on the research as well as from other scientists to show that the research was not beneficial to human patients.

PETA’s senior laboratory oversight specialist Dr Alka Chandna told Fox News:

“We had no idea that these sorts of experiments were going on.”

“It’s sad that in nature we see disease and disability but to deliberately breed animals to have muscular dystrophy is criminal,” Chandna said. “They are using public money to conduct research that is painful and involves a lot of suffering.”

“At the end of the day, dogs and humans are not being helped,” Chandna said.

The university disagrees with this, citing the severeness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy in human boys.

“While DMD occurs in nature in both children and dogs, the disease is not as severe in dogs, which means dogs offer a unique opportunity to learn as much as possible, thereby helping all affected by DMD,” university spokeswoman Amy Smith said, speaking on behalf of Kornegay and the research project.

“After years of study, we are close to a promising novel treatment involving gene therapy.”

In a December 2016 interview with Fox News, Kornegay, who has written for more than 30 publications on his research on muscular dystrophy in dogs, said there wasn’t another way to conduct research on MD.

“I’m a dog lover. I’m a veterinarian. I’ve had dogs all my life,” Kornegay said.

“So every time we have a research project we want to be as sure as we can that the research will be valuable because the dogs are valuable. Not financially valuable, but valuable as individuals.”

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