No Dog Experiments in My Name, Says Muscular Dystrophy Patient

 

For Immediate Release:

9 November 2017

Contact:

Jennifer White +44 (0) 20 7837 6327, ext 222; [email protected]

NO DOG EXPERIMENTS IN MY NAME, SAYS MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY PATIENT

Video Footage Showing Drooling, Caged Dogs Turns Former Muscular Dystrophy UK Fundraiser into Activist Against Tests

London – Johnathon Byrne used to raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy (MD) UK and is an adviser to the charity, but this week, the university student, who has the disease, is taking the organisation to task for funding canine MD experimenters and is urging it to support cutting-edge, human-relevant research methods instead.

In a letter to MD UK, Byrne shares a disturbing , shot inside laboratories in Texa of golden retrievers who were deliberately bred to have a canine form of MD and points out that of experiments on dogs have failed to produce a viable treatment to reverse symptoms in humans.

“Considering the futility of canine MD experiments, the ethical concerns are obvious. I’m referring not only to the suffering and deaths of the dogs but also to the faith that MD patients and their families have that the best and most promising tools will be used to find a cure,” writes Byrne. “This is why I encourage you to devote MD UK’s financial and intellectual resources to more productive, human-relevant methods for studying and curing the disease.”

The video, which was given to PETA US and PETA France and documents dogs struggling to walk and swallow, was taken inside the laboratories of Texas A&M University‘s golden retriever muscular dystrophy colony and France’s Alfort National Veterinary School. MD UK funds similar experiments on dogs suffering from MD. A recent publication co-authored by an experimenter supported by the charity describes cruel experiments, in which he participated, involving numerous invasive and painful blood and tissue tests on a sick Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Buckley, who eventually died in the laboratory at Texas A&M University.

Byrne, who is featured on MD UK’s website, distanced himself from the organisation last year over its funding of experiments on monkeys and rats.

Innovative techniques such as using unneeded cells from MD patients to develop disease-specific cures, developing ways to grow healthy human muscle cells that could be transplanted into patients with MD, and creating human-relevant drug-screening platforms have a greater potential to lead to promising therapies than using animals does.

Please see Byrne’s letter below.

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Robert Meadowcroft

Chief Executive

Muscular Dystrophy UK

Dear Mr Meadowcroft,

Thank you for the passion you have displayed in searching for a cure for muscular dystrophy (MD). I am writing as someone living with MD and as a former advocacy ambassador with Muscular Dystrophy UK to express my personal gratitude to you for your work in developing ways to improve the lives of individuals suffering from this disease. I know you are as disheartened as I am that after many decades of research, there is still no cure or viable treatment for MD. It’s for this reason that I thought I would write to you to suggest that we should think about current MD research a bit differently.

Specifically, I’m concerned about the charity’s involvement and collaboration with canine MD experimenters. Canine MD may look like human MD, but as you know, it’s not the same disease. The incidence of fatal diaphragm failure in newborns, the age at the onset of symptoms, growth retardation, loss of ambulation, neurocognitive deficits, and life expectancy all differ between cases of canine and human MD. Animals (including dogs) have been used for at least six decades without resulting in any useful MD treatments, let alone a cure.

As you may know, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) obtained disturbing video footage documenting the situation of dogs from Joe Kornegay’s golden retriever muscular dystrophy (GRMD) colony at Texas A&M University. In addition, a French student secured video footage of the MD dog laboratory at Alfort National Veterinary School. The videos show shockingly thin dogs housed – frequently alone – in barren metal kennel cages. The dogs struggle to walk and are unable to eat normally. Long ropes of drool hang from the mouths of ones whose jaw muscles have weakened. Because of the disease, their tongues are swollen, and one dog can be seen struggling to consume the gruel – apparently, the only type of food he can ingest.

According to John J Pippin, MD, FACC, animal experiments such as these have only rare and random clinical relevance for human diseases, and there is no reason to believe that experiments on dogs will benefit humans with MD. However, MD UK continues to fund experimenters such as Kornegay’s colleague Richard Piercy, who also uses dogs in cruel and apparently useless procedures.

Considering the futility of canine MD experiments, the ethical concerns are obvious. I’m referring not only to the suffering and deaths of the dogs but also to the faith that MD patients and their families have that the best and most promising tools will be used to find a cure. This is why I encourage you to devote MD UK’s financial and intellectual resources to more productive, human-relevant methods for studying and curing the disease.

As someone living with MD, I urge you to stop funding failed experiments that hurt animals and don’t help humans. I appeal to you, Mr Meadowcroft, to do what you can to end the suffering of these dogs and invest in human-relevant research methods that will actually help people like me.

Sincerely,

Johnathon Byrne