Animal research for ME

Discussion in 'Other research methodology topics' started by PeterW, Jul 21, 2022.


If undertaken within guidelines, is medical research of ME using animals (which may result in their

Poll closed Jul 24, 2022.
  1. Acceptable

    12 vote(s)
  2. Not acceptable

    14 vote(s)
  3. view results

    4 vote(s)
  1. PeterW

    PeterW Established Member (Voting Rights)

    A discussion has arisen on the use of animals in biological research into ME.
    I suspect there is insufficient data to create animal models of ME at the moment, but that may change in the future, for example using mice to test hypotheseis on potential causes of ME.

    Medical research into comparable diseases such as Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis does use animal models.

    I wanted to understand people's views on this:

    If undertaken within good guidelines, is medical research of ME using animals (which may result in their death)?
  2. Wonko

    Wonko Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    They are already using mice, hamsters, primates (as far as I remember) and who knows what else.

    Unless these animals have come up with some way of surviving having their brains, and other things, sliced, diced, and slivered, then they seem to normally end up dead.

    They do not seem to want, or care, about people's approval, or otherwise, especially patients.

    I answered 'not acceptable' not on moral grounds, but on ethical, as I have yet to see any non pointless animal model research into ME, and, IMO, if you're going to kill something it should be for good reason, and good reason is not simply to get funding for another year, or to add another pointless 10 papers to your output to increase your 'academic standing'..
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2022
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  3. Andy

    Andy Committee Member

    Hampshire, UK
    As Wonko points out, there are some who claim to have an animal model already, but it is simply rodents exercised to exhaustion, so hardly a useful one.

    Frankly, I would need to see the details before getting behind the idea of experimentation on animals for ME research. One person's "good guideline" will be different to someone elses, and the accuracy of any potential model and the reasoning of why the use of animal model is even necessary would need to be explained before I would be in favour.
    Yann04, Kitty, MrMagoo and 14 others like this.
  4. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Perhaps the question needs to be clarified because I presume what is being asked is whether you believe there are no circumstances under which animals should be experimented on.
    Yann04, Wonko, Adrian and 4 others like this.
  5. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I dislike people against animal research getting a veto on it.

    Vegetarians for example don't consume dead animals.
    However they don't get a veto stopping others from consuming dead animals.

    I would argue there's a stronger case for blocking everyone consuming dead animals (i.e. forcing everyone to be vegetarians) because people have alternatives foods they can consume than blocking animal research, where there may be no good alternatives to certain lines of medical research that involve animals, which may mean we are left to suffer or die when that might not have been the case if animal research had been allowed.
    poetinsf, Yann04, Jaybee00 and 5 others like this.
  6. Peter Trewhitt

    Peter Trewhitt Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    For me the question needs unpacking:
    • Is animal research into ME going to tell us anything meaningful at present? I think the answer to this is no. We are nowhere near a meaningful animal model of human ME, or even knowing which systems we should be investigating. Animal research may tell us about immune systems, mitochondrial function, gut floral, etc, but it is purely speculative as to whether any of this has any bearing on human ME.
    • Is animal research going to answer questions about ME that can not be answered as well by other means? Given we do not even know the questions we need to ask, this is currently purely academic. I suspect even if we were further down the road of understanding the physiology of ME, I would remain sceptical that there could ever be sufficient overlap between what happens in other species and what happens in humans in relation to ME to justify animal research but that also is currently purely speculative.
    • Is animal research ever justifiable under any circumstances? That is a separate issue to ME, but each individual needs to answer this question for themselves before responding to this poll.
    My personal feeling is that we are a long way from being able gain anything meaningful from animal research in relation into ME, so we are also a long way away from being able to say that there are questions about ME that can only be answered by animal research, so at present, even if you think that animal research is theoretically acceptable, it can not currently be justified in relation to ME.
    Yann04, Kitty, EzzieD and 10 others like this.
  7. cassava7

    cassava7 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    In my view, currently, the only experiment on animals worth trying in the context of ME research is to inject plasma or IgG from patients’ blood to mice (as was recently done for fibromyalgia), since there seems to be some factor in the blood of ME patients.

    Some way of observing PEM, if at all present, would have to be devised — presumably having the mice run and observing their reaction to this exertion in the following days. Actigraphy could help in this regard.

    In fact, I am surprised that no research group has shown interest in doing so so far.

    Otherwise, animal research on ME seems pointless at this stage.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2022
  8. JemPD

    JemPD Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    all of the above
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  9. Peter Trewhitt

    Peter Trewhitt Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    It used to be a condition of the UK Home Office licences for animal research that the animals be euthanised. I am not sure if this is still the case, I started searching but am not alert enough this evening to locate the relevant information. There is a useful source of information on UK regulations on the University of Oxford website (see ), though these pages are very much pro use of animals in medical research.

    My experience, over forty years ago now, was that this resulted practices such as testing drugs to the limit with such as giving extreme convulsant doses as the animals were due to be put down anyway.
    alktipping likes this.
  10. PeterW

    PeterW Established Member (Voting Rights)

    Well that's an interesting case example. Do you think such research is acceptable or not acceptable?

    A few people have said "well there isn't any current need" - yes, I get that. I am talking about the future.

    For example: if a genetics study were to discover that people with ME lacked a certain gene, would it be acceptable or not acceptable to try and create a knock-out gene mouse, to understand the implications?
  11. Hutan

    Hutan Moderator Staff Member

    Aotearoa New Zealand
    Most of the research about ME/CFS using animals has been egregiously bad - completely unlikely to generate any useful information, torturing the animals and then concluding things that could not fairly be concluded, leaving the ME/CFS research field muddier. It leaves me appalled at the humans who thought it was both useful and ok. We tag any research with animals, and also discussion about animal models with 'animal model', click on that tag at the top left to see what is there. I think it will give a sense of what people thought about specific research using animals.

    I think there has to be no viable alternative way to get to the answer before it's ok to experiment on animals, and the answer has to be worth getting. The likely benefit created has to outweigh the harm caused for it to be ethical. Assessment of the harm includes a consideration of the animal species used - so I'm pretty much ok with people doing whatever they want with fruit flies (in terms of harm caused to them) but I have more concerns when mice are used, and much more concern with primates.

    There is research with animals that causes little harm. We've talked about training dogs to sniff out ME/CFS, in the same way that they do for Covid-19. I'd have no problem with someone who had a track record and commitment to providing proper care for the dogs trying to do that, because it doesn't stop the dogs living a good dog life and because it would tell us something about ME/CFS.

    Is there a particular reason you are asking @PeterW? I think the answer to the question about whether research using animals is ok depends on the details of each piece of research, and on the attitudes of the researchers.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2022
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  12. Adrian

    Adrian Administrator Staff Member

    I think even this question can be read in different ways. I seem to remember some animal research looking at sickness behaviour as in when animals get ill what are the effects on their bodies that for example cause them to change their behaviours (such as resting due to lack of energy). I can see such research being useful in understanding more about biological systems under stress (e.g. illness) and how they react. Understanding gained here could potentially be used to form potential hypothesises about mechanisms in ME.

    Although I guess this isn't animal research into ME.
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  13. Adrian

    Adrian Administrator Staff Member

    The other issue worth pointing out here is the opportunity cost. If researchers (and funders) are perusing poor quality animal research they are not following other potentially more promising routes.
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  14. MeSci

    MeSci Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Cornwall, UK
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  15. PeterW

    PeterW Established Member (Voting Rights)

    Given the pre-print released this weekend, showing that IgG from people with LongCovid, injected into mice caused the mice to exhibit symptoms, I felt this thread was relevant again.

    was it a major strategic mistake to have done such little murine research into ME/CFS? What part of that trial couldn’t have been done 15 years ago?
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  16. forestglip

    forestglip Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I'll copy what I wrote on Phoenix Rising a while ago about creating an animal model of ME:
    Although, I'm not completely sure of my position. If it takes giving a mouse mild ME to cure a person's severe ME, then maybe it's acceptable. But even then, the ME isn't the only factor in the animal's life.

    I don't think a mouse or other animal can be happy, even in the best currently available circumstances, living its whole life as a lab experiment. It must be insanely stressful to be poked and prodded by these giant beings.

    And when the experiment is far as I know, almost all mice are killed with CO2 asphyxiation, likely a horribly agonizing death. Even though nitrogen asphyxiation is a painless option, CO2 is cheaper and easier, so that's what normally gets used.
    Ash and Kitty like this.
  17. Nightsong

    Nightsong Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Gases always used to be inexpensive & and I doubt that's changed - differences in price between nitrogen and carbon dioxide will probably be trivial. It's true that if you expose mice immediately to high concentration CO2 they will exhibit signs of distress but if you increase the flow rate more slowly that doesn't happen (and I understand that there are now purpose-built chambers with automatic flow control for this). In the UK there is a law dating from the 1980s that sets out a list of approved methods for different species and if you are a licensee you absolutely must be familiar with it.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2024
    Hutan likes this.
  18. MelbME

    MelbME Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    More could be done but it wasn't because it has been very difficult to get funding for animal work in ME. I know people that tried years ago and never got up. I applied with a group last year but didn't get funded, that was more mechanistic to look at how EBV and RRV might go from acute to chronic but adding extra stress layers during acute infection phase. Animal work is ideal to look at acute emto chronic.

    Have considered doing human fecal transplants from humans in to mice as well to study that impact. I remember several groups (not me) discussed adding human IgG from ME patients to mice a few years ago, not sure if it ever happened because of funding.

    Plenty of SARS CoV work in mice and plenty of those working in mice have begun work on Long COVID. The funding leap isn't too high.
    Yann04 likes this.
  19. MelbME

    MelbME Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    To be clear, I'm not a fan of mouse work but it can be necessary for answering certain questions on a system level.

    Ethics is very strict for animal work in Australia. Most concern is for suffering. They would rather you kill more mice if it means the average of those mice suffer less. Average level of suffering matters most. Sacrificing is very controlled and minimal suffering is involved. As an example, forcing a mouse to run on a treadmill for 10 minutes is considered more on the moderate-to-extreme end of suffering that will be tolerated by ethics.
    EndME, MEMarge, Hutan and 3 others like this.
  20. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    London, UK
    I think it much more likely that it was very sensible and that a new generation of researchers will repeat the mistakes of the 1970s and 1980s. Animal models of disease have been an almost complete waste of time and often misled people into looking at the wrong things for decades (in MS for instance). Mouse studies are very important for establishing how normal processes work. They are precious little use for modelling abnormal processes. I don't think they will answer any useful questions about the systems dynamics of human disease to be honest. It is nearly always completely different from the dynamics of experimental intervention.
    Ash, cfsandmore, EndME and 7 others like this.

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